Passover and Non-Jews: A Universal Exodus

If there are aspects of the Passover Seder from which all people can learn, how much more so is this true for believers in Messiah?


APR 5, 2019

“Where the heck is the matzah?” I mumbled to myself. I was at Whole Foods looking to buy some matzah for the upcoming Passover festival but couldn’t locate the Passover section.

I eventually had to ask one of the workers to help me find it. As we walked toward the Passover section he asked me, “Do you mind if I ask you a question? What is Passover? Customers keep talking about it and I have no idea what it is.” Before I answered his question, I tried to take a quick assessment in my mind of his background. Obviously, he was not Jewish, and I guessed he was not a Christian either. I proceeded to tell him about the festival and its symbolism in the most universal way possible while still centering on the biblical background of the exodus from Egypt.Passover, although a thoroughly Jewish festival, has meaning for non-Jews. Many peoples and cultures can identify with the themes of oppression under foreign powers, exile from a homeland, and the hope of liberation. Ellen Frankel, in an article entitled “The Power of Passover for Jews and Buddhists,” points out what Buddhists can learn from the Passover Seder. Like the Jewish people, many Buddhist people have been banished from their homeland and need to find hope in their current state of exile. At the end of the article she writes:

In so many places today, we have seen the struggles of people across the globe to move from oppression to freedom. While there is much work to be done, sometimes it is the stepping back and the sitting together with family and friends over a meal to recall our past, reclaim our deepest values and re-ignite the flame of hope that burns inside. This Passover provides an opportunity for Jews and non-Jews to come together in the spirit of hope and freedom.

In the days of the apostles there were many God-fearing Gentiles who celebrated Passover along with the Jewish people. Even rabbinic literature made room for non-Jews at a seder. In the Second Temple Era, Gentiles were not permitted to eat the actual Pesach sacrifice (Exodus 12:48), but they were allowed to eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs and participate in the rest of the meal. [1] Messianic luminary Rabbi Yechiel Lichtenstein interpreted Exodus 13 as even commanding the ger toshav, the non-Jewish resident alien who lived in Israel, to the prohibition of no leaven:

What about the verse (Exodus 13), “When He brings you…you shall eat matzah for seven days…and no leaven shall be seen in your borders in all the Land of Israel”? Therefore, the ger living in the land is forbidden to possess leaven so that no leaven will be found within the borders of Israel. Even though the ger was not in Egypt, why then is he obligated to this commandment of not possessing leaven, yet he is not obligated to the commandment of building or sitting in the sukkah (booth)? So that there shall be no leaven in the Land. [2]

Eusebius records an account that at the Passover feast in Jerusalem toward the end of the Second Temple Period “all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.” [3] In the days of the Temple, Passover had a universal appeal.

Rabbi David Katz uses the imagery of Passover and matzah to esoterically illustrate the journey of every Gentile who leaves idolatry and joins himself to the worship of the One True God:

In and of itself, matzah is pashut, free from the addition of other elements. It contains nothing but flour and water, and is kneaded, rolled out, and baked. Conversely, leavened bread, i.e., chametz, in addition to flour and water, is combined with se’or, leavening, which attaches itself to every grain of flour, causing the dough to rise. As a result, the grains are not free, but under the influence of leavening. Similarly, when one is subjugated to a master, he has not attained freedom. And freedom is the ingredient through which Redemption (Geulah) was created. [4]

He goes on to say that the Gentile must free himself from the yoke of idolatry and into the freedom of the worship of the God of Israel. It is like his own personal exodus.

If there are aspects of the Passover Seder from which all people can learn, how much more so is this true for believers in Messiah? After all, our Master Yeshua chose the wine and the matzah of a Passover Seder to represent his body and blood. More than just learning about and celebrating the concept of freedom from oppression and exile, for disciples of Messiah, the seder celebrates Yeshua’s atoning death and resurrection while remaining firmly grounded and centered on God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt.

There is ample evidence that, for the earliest Gentile believers, the celebration of Passover was an important holiday celebrated by all believers in Messiah—both Jewish and Gentile. Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians to a predominately Gentile audience who attended both synagogue and weekly gatherings of believers. Additionally, the timing of the letter seems to have been sometime in early spring before the Passover season had begun. Many portions in the letter allude to Passover and seem to offer instructions for observing it properly with the right heart-attitude:

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Although the imagery to “celebrate the festival” is clearly metaphorical, it could be understood only by readers who were in fact literally celebrating Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, complete with some level of abstention from leaven.

David Rudolph writes of the widespread practice of Gentile believers celebrating Passover in the second century:

It appears that almost all of the churches in Asia (where Paul devoted much of his ministry), as well as churches in Asia Minor, Cilicia, Syria, and Mesopotamia, observed Gentile Passover in accordance with the Jewish festival calendar, on the fourteenth day of the first month, the month of Nisan. Far from being a minor schismatic group, Christians who celebrated Gentile Passover on Nisan 14 stretched across a vast geographic region. Many of these Gentile Christians celebrated with Jews, and the similarity of their observance to Jewish Passover probably varied from community to community. [5]

When the Roman church sought to limit the celebration of Passover to the first Sunday after Passover, other Christians, especially those in Asia Minor, insisted on celebrating the festival according to the Jewish practice on the fourteenth of Nisan as they had always done. The venerable Bishop Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, insisted that the Jewish observance of Passover had been transmitted to them through the apostles.[6] As the church at large began to adopt the Sunday practice instead, the Quartodecimans (“fourteeners,” those who observed the fourteenth of Nisan) separated into their own sect. They existed up until the fifth century.

In the Syriac Lectionary (fifth century CE), the week before Easter is called the Week of Unleavened Bread. [7] The Canons of Hippolytus (third to fifth century CE) instructs:

The week during which the Jews celebrated Passover must be observed by the Christian people with the greatest earnest, they must be careful to abstain from all eagerness. [8]

Although this text is not advocating Passover observance in the Torah sense per se, it does indicate that the early church retained traditions based upon Passover observances found in the Torah. It indicates that, at some earlier point, the church was indeed observing the actual Jewish feast.

This makes complete sense. Gentile believers have been brought near to the commonwealth of Israel. Although this does not make Gentile Christians into Jews, they share in the spiritual heritage of the nation of Israel. Paul tells the Gentiles in Galatia that they are now “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7), and when addressing the mixed congregation in Corinth, he even refers to the Israelites who came out of Egypt as “our fathers” (1 Corinthians 10:1). [9] This indicates that the exodus from Egypt has become a part of the Gentile believer’s spiritual heritage. A member of the nations who joins himself or herself to Messiah retains a Gentile identity and yet shares in Israel’s connection to and celebration of redemptive history. In fact, Gentiles being drawn to the God of Israel is a significant and beautiful part of this grand plan of redemption as we long for the even greater exodus that will come in the Messianic Era (Jeremiah 16:14-15). Rabbi David Fohrman writes:

The Exodus, as it actually happened in history, did not accomplish everything it might have. There is work yet to do to complete its unrealized vision. The procession that departed Egypt was a shadow of what it might have been. It will be the destiny of Jew and Gentile to one day realize the promise of that journey as it should have taken place: to march side by side and join hands, proclaiming in unison the oneness of a Father they both share. [10] (Click to Source)

  1. Mechilta De-Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Exodus 12:45. Cf. b.Pesachim 92a.
  2. Rabbi Yechiel Tzvi Lichtenstein, Limudei Nevaim, On the Torah and Mitzvot, translated by Jordan Levy.
  3. Eusebius, History of the Church 2.23.4,10-18.
  4. Rabbi David Katz, The World of the Ger (Israel: Ger Gear, 2014), 36-37.
  5. David J. Rudolph, “The Celebration of Passover by Gentile Christians in the Patristic Period,” Verge 2:3 (2010): 4.
  6. “Quarterdecimanism,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church 1364-1365. See also J. Van Goudoever, Biblical Calendars (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1961), 155-163.
  7. Goudoever, 176-181. See also G. Rouwhorst, “Jewish Liturgical Traditions in Early Syriac Christianity,” Vigiliae Christianae 51, no. 1 (March 1997): 81-82.
  8. Goudoever, 178.
  9. Cf. 1 Clement 4.
  10. Rabbi David Fohrman, The Exodus You Almost Passed Over (United States of America: Aleph Beta Press, 2016), 260.

Bat Kol at the Transfiguration

In our days it is even exceedingly rare to hear a voice speak from heaven, but it seems to have been more common in the days of the Apostles. Talmudic literature offers several anecdotes of “a voice from heaven” speaking during the late Second Temple Era.

The Hebrew term for the heavenly voice, bat kol, literally means “daughter of a voice,” a way to describe an echo or reverberation. The Talmud uses the term to refer to a voice heard from an unseen speaker. The Apostle Paul heard a voice from heaven speak to him as did the writer of the book of Revelation. The Gospels record three incidents involving a voice speaking from heaven: the voice at the Jordan, the voice at the triumphal entry (John 12:29), and the voice on the mount of the Transfiguration.

The voice from heaven that spoke at the Transfiguration repeated the same message which the Master heard at the time of His immersion in the Jordan. In that instance, the voice addressed Yeshua directly, saying, “You are my Son …” On the high mountain, the voice addressed the disciples, “This is My beloved son …”, and the message came with the addition imperative, “Listen to Him!”

This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him! (Matthew 17:5)

The mysterious declaration “This is my beloved son” alludes directly to Psalm 2 where the LORD tells His anointed one (messiah), “You are my Son; today I have begotten You” (Psalm 2:7). The sages regarded Psalm 2 as a psalm about the Messiah, and they frequently employed the psalm to provide proof texts regarding the Messiah.

The words “with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17) directly allude to the messianic servant song of Isaiah 42:1: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him …” (Isaiah 42:1). “With whom I am well-pleased” is a Greek equivalent for the Hebrew idiom, “In whom My soul delights.” By alluding to Isaiah 42:1, the first of the servant songs, the voice from heaven identifies Yeshua of Nazareth as the subject of all of Isaiah’s “Servant of the LORD” prophecies which culminate in the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

The voice directed the disciples to “listen to Him,” alluding to the prophecy of the prophet like Moses. In Deuteronomy 18 Moses told the children of Israel that the LORD would one day raise a prophet like him from among the Jewish people. The Torah says, “You shall listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The heavenly voice identified Yeshua as the prophet like unto Moses to whom the people must listen. (Click to Source)

Preserving the Remnant

Joseph held no animosity toward his brothers. He could see how God had used his life to bring a great deliverance.

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. (Image: Wikimedia Commons, by German painter Peter von Cornelius [1784–1867])

Joseph explained to his bewildered brothers that God had ordained his descent into Egypt in order to “preserve life” and “to preserve a remnant.” (Genesis 45:5). Joseph goes on to state that, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

When Joseph is understood as foreshadowing the work of Messiah, a similar statement may be made. Yeshua’s brothers the Jewish people rejected Him, but God ordained that rejection to accomplish a great deliverance.

Paul seems to have read Joseph’s story in this light as well. In Romans 11, he struggled with the difficult question of Israel’s rejection of Yeshua. Though he did not directly invoke Joseph as an analogy, he seems to have alluded to it in a few places in this discussion. For example, he pointed out that Israel’s rejection of Messiah has meant riches for the world. The brothers’ rejection of Joseph resulted in riches for the famine-stricken world of Joseph’s day. Similarly, Paul pointed out that Israel’s ultimate reconciliation with the Messiah will be “life from the dead.” Joseph said, “God sent me before you to preserve life (lemicheyah, למחיה).” Jewish liturgy typically uses the same Hebrew word for the resurrection of the dead.

For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15)

I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! (Romans 11:11-12)

Paul saw the Jewish estrangement from Messiah as a necessary part of a divinely ordained plan whereby God extended salvation to the entire world. In this regard, the Jewish estrangement from Messiah closely mirrors the events in Joseph’s story. Paul conceded that Israel has stumbled (though not fallen), but he insisted that even the nation’s stumbling plays a part of God’s plan. Just as Joseph and his brothers ultimately reunited and reconciled, Paul said that “all Israel will be saved.”

All Israel will be saved; just as it is written [in Isaiah 59:20-21], “The deliverer will come from Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26-27)

Paul did not suppose that all Israel must wait until the culmination of the age before entering into reconciliation with the Messiah. He maintained that, just as the LORD preserved a remnant of His people in the past, so too a remnant had recognized King Messiah. Again, the discussion seems to allude to the story of Joseph:

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:7)

In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. (Romans 11:5) (Click to Source)


Jim Caviezel Believes He’s ‘Called’ to Play Biblical Roles to Show Hollywood Christ

(PHOTO: 2018 CTMG)Luke (Jim Caviezel) is interrogated inside the Mamertine Prison in PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST–in theaters March 23, 2018.

NASHVILLE — Hollywood actor Jim Caviezel is gearing up for the release of his new film, “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” and says he feels called to make Christian films and share the love of Jesus Christ throughout his industry.

“Paul, Apostle of Christ,” hits theaters March 23rd and will bring to life the story of Saul of Tarsus, who was known for persecuting and murdering Christians but went on to become one of the most powerful and important figures of the Church after he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Caviezel said he wanted to do this film because it’s the “most important genre” for this time.

“Often times when we think about conversion, it’s not necessarily going to make us wealthier but it’ll do one thing, it’ll give us a heart filled with just great joy that we’ve been lacking,” Caviezel told the Christian Post at the National Religious Broadcasters’ convention on March 1.

“Certainly, in my industry I’ve seen so many that are wealthy but are dead,” he continued. “My Lord’s message to me was, ‘Ok you felt my love come through you. You can’t judge them, you have to be love for them because that’s the only Christ they’re going to know.'”

Caviezel, who plays Luke in the film, commended Paul’s example. When asked why he continues to do faith-based films although his industry often shuns Christianity, the actor made it clear that he’d rather serve God than the shallowness of Hollywood.

“I’ll be point blank with you, my industry has been around for a century, the word of God has been around for 5,000 years if you want to go back to Moses and Abraham,” stated Caviezel.

“Am I the right guy [for the parts]? No, I never thought I was the right guy to play Jesus [either] but a friend of mine told me this, he said – ‘God doesn’t always choose the best, but He chose you so what are you gonna do about it?'” the “Passion of Christ” actor shared.

Caviezel admitted that he enjoys the moral values he gets to take away from playing religious figures.

“I look at the role of Luke, to be whole (body, mind and spirit,). Now my industry says to be whole in body and the mind but not in the spirit,” he maintained. “The spirit is what motivates.”

In “Paul, Apostle of Christ” you will hear Paul boast only of his weaknesses, a quality not often seen in entertainers who are constantly praised for their work. The 49-year-old explained that it’s easy to get an “ego” in his industry and then that same field can also be quick to turn on you.

Caviezel confessed that he “certainly,” feels like taking the role of these men of God on the silver screen is a “calling.” The Washington State native also believes he’s meant to spread what those characters teach while in Hollywood with everyone he comes in contact with.

“I never focused on me, I just wanted to play the character well,” he said of his role as Luke. “Christians need to understand that we are 2.3 billion, that’s much bigger than 300 million people in the United States but if we want to hold the truth, we have to show it by love.”

Caviezel has a long catalogue of films which he believes lean toward “faith-based,” even if they are not explicitely Christian films. He listed, “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Frequency” as redemptive films he’s been a part of.

“I often talk to people are about this – ‘Our Lord is not going to spare you from suffering. In fact, his closest apostles suffered tremendously and in that suffering, we still have to forgive and to be Christ [like] for others,'” he continued.

“If I said to you, ‘Why did you convert?’ You’d say, ‘Because of His love towards me.’ Well then why won’t you share that with others?” Caviezel maintained.

He wants believers to understand that when they do not share their faith in their realm of influence, then it becomes an elitist mentality.

“It becomes like an elite country club …. And this is not appropriate,” he stated.

“Paul, Apostle of Christ” stars Caviezel as Luke; James Faulkner (“Game of Thrones”) as Paul; and Olivier Martinez (“S.W.A.T.”), Joanne Whalley (“A.D. The Bible Continues”) and John Lynch (“The Secret Garden”).

The film will showcase when “Paul suffers alone in a Roman prison, awaiting his execution under Emperor Nero. Mauritius, the ambitious prison prefect, can hardly see what threat this broken man poses. Once he was Saul of Tarsus, the high-ranking and brutal killer of Christians. Now his faith rattles Rome. At great risk, Luke the physician visits the aged Paul to comfort and tend to him — and to question, to transcribe and to smuggle out Paul’s letters to the growing community of believers. Amid Nero’s inhuman persecution, these men and women will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and change the world,” according to the synopsis.

Filmed in Malta, which is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast, “Paul, Apostle of Christ” will premiere in theaters nationwide on March 23. (Click to Source)

For more information visit the film’s website.

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Is National Demonic Possession Possible?

We will demonstrate that demonic possession of a large part of a national population is possible; we shall also detail the various doorways a person can open that allows demons to enter them.  Once we describe these doorways to you, you will realize that our entire American  society is allowing itself to be infested demonically right NOW!


Can an entire population of a nation become demonically possessed?  Maybe we should rephrase this question:  Can an entire population of unsaved people become demonically possessed ?  We shall demonstrate to you that this most frightening scenario is not only possible, but is in the process of occurring in American society today!

Before we begin, let us examine some pertinent Biblical facts .

1)  God views a nation as the collective of the majority of the people inhabiting that nation.  Therefore, individual morality is critically important to the nation, especially as that type of morality moves into the majority position.  God ascribes a collective national morality to a nation based upon the majority morality of the people currently living there .

2)  Since this is true, God is very concerned about the morality of nations.  We see this Biblical fact very strongly in the Old Testament.  Once the majority morality of Sodom and Gomorrah became totally reprobate, God assigned that label to these city-states, and destroyed them.  God sent Jonah to the mighty city, Nineveh, to warn them that, unless they repented as a nation, God would destroy them in physical judgment.  Led by their mighty king, the people of Nineveh did repent, sparing themselves physical destruction.  However, history records that, 120 years later, the people of Nineveh were again just as sinful as their forefathers in the time of Jonah, and God did destroy them at that time.  Finally, God warned Israel about her sinfulness for about 150 years before he sent in King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to militarily destroy the nation, carrying away most of the population to serve as slaves in his kingdom.

3)  Therefore, it does matter what people do in the “privacy of their own bedrooms”, and living rooms, and in their lives.

4)  Americans today have been ill informed about the reality of Spiritual Warfare swirling all around us.  The situation has gotten so bad that Satan could have us by our nose and we would not recognize him for who he is!

One of the things of which I am so grateful to God are the people He has placed into my ministry to help me understand the people and the organizations in this world that are leading this world steadily into the arms of Antichrist.  God has brought a former member of the World Wide Children of God into this ministry, a former Satanist Illuminist, several former Catholics, a several former Freemasons.  As a result, my understanding of the total occult world being arrayed against the nations and institutions of this world in order to bring them under the subjection of Antichrist, is very much strengthened and clarified.

In this vein, we are indebted to a medical doctor whose ministry is to former Satanists who have come out of the Craft because they had become born again, for the specific insight as to how a person can invite demonic possession or affliction .  This person is Dr. Rebecca Brown, in her book, “Becoming A Vessel of Honor In The Master’s Service”.  While I am aware that Rebecca Brown has great problems with her theology, she does describe Satanism very well; I have verified her description of Satanism with former Satanist, Doc Marquis.  Therefore, when I quote her material, I am doing so only on the basis of her detailed knowledge of Satanism and its practices, without supporting her theology.

If you do not believe in spiritual warfare, you are going to have trouble believing this article.  Perhaps you should do some Biblical reading first that will prepare you for Dr. Brown’s facts.  We encourage you to read these Scriptures:

1)  2 Kings 6:8-17 — In this passage, the King of Syria sends out a huge army to capture, and to kill, the prophet, Elisha.  The next morning, the servant of Elisha goes out of the tent and sees the huge Syrian army surrounding the entire city in which Elisha was residing.  In great panic, the servant cries out to Elisha that they are doomed.  Elisha tells the servant something that must have made the servant think his old master had gone nuts.  Elisha said, “Fear not; for those with us are more than those with them.” [verse 16]  Elisha could tell the servant was not taking this statement too well, so he prayed that God would “open his eyes” so he could see God’s army.  Immediately, the servant could look into the spirit world , and he saw “the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” [Verse 17]

This is precisely the type of spiritual warfare about which Dr. Brown speaks.  In fact, she says that, for most people involved into the occult, their major motivation for getting so involved is their desire to look into the spirit world.  However, God forbids such activity.

2) Daniel 10 — The entire chapter gives us a glimpse into the spirit world, and a better understanding of the spiritual warfare that is occurring every single day in the realm of the Heavenlies in heaven, in outer space and in the air surrounding earth.  In this chapter, Daniel is praying to God for further understanding into End Times prophecy God had given him earlier concerning Israel.  Daniel prayed and fasted partially for “three whole weeks”.  At the 21st day after he prayed, an angel came to him with God’s answer.  This angel told Daniel that God had sent him from Heaven with His answer to Daniel’s prayer on the first day Daniel prayed.  However, this angel was kept from coming to Daniel for three weeks because he had been attacked by a very powerful demon, who is identified as the “Hostile Prince of Persia”.  This demon was personally responsible to Satan to keep the pagan king of Persia making decisions that would move the country in the direction Satan wanted it to go.  This demon was so powerful, this holy angel had to call upon the Archangel Michael, Israel’s personal protector, to win the battle for him.  Then, after he had finished with Daniel, this angel stated that he would have to go help holy angels fight against demons for the control of Greece.  From this Scripture, we see that Satan assigns his most powerful demons to personally attend to the leadership of the various nations of the world, to try to move their policies in the paths Satan would like them to go.

Study these two passages well, for they instruct us well as to the spiritual warfare that continually roars all around the world, in outer space, and in Heaven itself, as Satan tries daily to thwart God’s plan.  Once you understand these situations you will be in much better condition to understand the principles Dr. Brown is teaching us.  Even though the average Christian does not understand the reality of spiritual warfare any longer, practicing Satanists understand it very well.  In fact, they are specifically trained to carry out this type of spiritual warfare daily. (Click to Site)

“Signs of Life” – Ki Tisa (When you take) – TorahScope – FEBRUARY 14, 2014

Ki Tisa covers a wide variety of topics that range from describing the half-shekel tax collected (Exodus 30:11-16), to the infamous golden calf incident (Exodus 32:1-35), and to instructions regarding the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17). Additional instruction is given regarding hand washing (Exodus 30:17-21), anointing oil (Exodus 30:22-33) and incense formulas (Exodus 30:34-38), and how the Tabernacle is to be used (Exodus 31:1-11). Moses also relates significant interchanges that he has with the Holy One as he received the tablets of testimony, pleaded for the people of Israel, and then eventually witnessed the very glory of God (Exodus 32:11-34:35). These, and other events described, give students of the Torah much to ponder this week.

As one meditates upon this selection from Exodus, a multitude of impressions can be generated. For this student, three seemingly unrelated passages in theparashah became linked. The first Scriptural mention of the Book of Life (Exodus 32:32-33) generated some curiosity that led to some reflections about how serious the Father is about His children and their actions. These thoughts were then coupled with the passage about Shabbat (tBv) or the Sabbath being a sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:12-18). Finally, the passage about Moses desiring the Lord’s Divine presence struck a chord (Exodus 33:12-23). Let me explain.

Moses’ Intercession

Seeing the many things detailed in our parashah this week, the people of Israel are in serious trouble. Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive God’s Instruction. While there, Moses is informed that the impatient Israelites have fashioned a golden calf and are riotously worshipping it. The Lord threatens extermination of these sinners:

“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation” (Exodus 32:10).

Thankfully, as a result of Moses’ intercession, God decides not to do this:

“So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14).

At this point, we understand just how serious the Lord is about His people not worshipping other gods. Moses comes down the mountain with the tablets inscribed by the very finger of the Creator. Upon seeing the revelry over the golden calf, he shatters the tablets. Moses issues a call of loyalty to the Most High (Exodus 32:19-28a). At this point, all the Levites respond and they are summoned to take up their swords against all who worshipped the false god. Three thousand Israelites lose their lives (Exodus 32:28b), while the Levites are consecrated for the call He has placed upon them to fulfill the obligations of priesthood:

“[T]hen Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for theLord, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.”’ So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, ‘Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today’” (Exodus 32:26-29).

The next day, God and Moses get into a debate. Moses offers himself as “an atonement” for the sins of the Israelites. (I believe that this offer is reminiscent of what Yeshua would later accomplish, actually being the permanent atonement for the sins of humanity.) The dialogue between Moses and the Lord continues:

“On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, ‘Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book’” (Exodus 32:30-33).

Interestingly, this is the first mention of the Book of Life in the Holy Writ, a record of those who stand under God’s favor. The most important place we see the Book of Life mentioned, though, is in the final judgment recorded by John in the Book of Revelation:

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

One thing is very certain from the interchange between God and Moses, when seen through the filter of Revelation 20:12-15: a person does not want his or her name to be missing from the Book of Life. The consequence of sinning against the Most High by worshipping another god (Exodus 32:33), and then being among those judged “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12, NRSV),is a very frightening concept.

Another important thing is mentioned when the Lord speaks to Moses. God alone has the ability to blot out or erase a name from the Book of Life (Exodus 32:33). We should simply recognize that He has given His children ample understanding throughout the Scriptures to take loyalty to Him seriously. It is not impossible to truly be loyal to God, but demonstrating loyalty to Him is not something that is entirely passive, either.

While pondering the gravity and reality of the Book of Life, reflecting on Ki Tisa, two passages came to my mind from this parashah. First, God describes an action that can serve as a tangible sign between us and Him, that we are striving to be His. Secondly, the evidence of His presence in our midst, as sought by Moses, is a definite sign that we are His. One is an action we can take, and the other is an action God takes.

Shabbat Observance

Earlier in this Torah portion (Exodus 31:12-18), the Lord gives His people some specific instruction about how to remember Shabbat, or the seventh-day Sabbath. This day of rest was to be an important sign between Israel and the Lord, which was to distinguish them among the nations. Remembering Shabbatwas to serve as a tangible sign, for future generations, that Israel was His chosen people and that God created the universe by His supreme hand:

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lordwho sanctifies you. Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.’ When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:12-18).

Here in these verses, as the finger of God has completed inscribing the Decalogue, He twice mentions within the span of a few verses two important things. First, the remembrance of Shabbat is a sign between the Lord and His people “throughout your/their generations” (Exodus 31:13, 16). Secondly, the Ancient Israelites were told that anyone who profanes or works on Shabbatwould receive the penalty of capital punishment (Exodus 31:14b, 15b). This is extremely serious, and the fact that it is reiterated compounds the gravity of the statute.

Here in the Book of Exodus, we see how important the Lord considered the institution of the Sabbath to be. It is considered a Creation ordinance (Exodus 31:15), as we remember how God Himself rested after His six periods of creating the universe (Genesis 2:2). Even if we believe in this post-resurrection era that the capital punishment for not remembering the Sabbath has been absorbed by the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (cf. Colossians 2:14), why does it seem that many Christians today want to overlook the Biblical imperative to rest on the seventh day? At most, the being “cut off” they would experience would not be participating in all of the good things that resting for a complete day naturally offers us.

Much of the negativity that today’s Messianic Believers encounter, when telling Christian family or friends that they are keeping the Sabbath, comes from various encounters we read in the Gospels (i.e., Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 6:1-5, 6-11; 13:10-17; John 5:10, 15-16; 7:22-23), and how they have been too commonly read. We see scenes where Yeshua the Messiah is either seen arguing with some of the religious officials in His day, or how He is rebuked by them for doing “unauthorized” things on the Sabbath. Bible scholars today are not all agreed that Yeshua opposed the keeping of the Sabbath, as much as He opposed the different streams of Jewish tradition present in His day that made it difficult for the Sabbath to be a legitimate day of rest for the normal person—and how some authorities opposed the legitimate doing of good on the Sabbath, as He was rebuked for healing people. And notable to also remember, is how Yeshua did not oppose all tradition—just those traditions that specifically took away from accomplishing the purpose of His Father.

Yeshua’s ministry and teachings clarified much of what the Torah originally intended profaning the Sabbath to be. In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua spends a considerable amount of time working through various Torah commandments as they related to one’s heart intent (Matthew chs. 5-7). Hedid not come to fufill and thus abolish the Law, as many may inaccurately teach—but instead to fulfill the Law by showing people how to live out its intentions properly in human life (Matthew 5:16ff). When it came to the issues concerning Shabbat, our Lord demonstrated that healing and doing good was appropriate. Yeshua stated how “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NRSV), and how its rest is something which can benefit all people.

The Presence of God

A little further on in our parashah, we encounter a second visible sign that clearly marks the people of God. God’s presence is to be among His people:

“‘Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 33:13-16).

Here, the Hebrew word panim (~ynP) or “face” is actually translated as “presence.” When the face of God Himself shines upon His people, it is evidence of His favor and blessing toward them. Such favor was to be so tangible toward Ancient Israel, that in their comings and goings, they would be distinguished among all others on Earth. As further detailed, this would involve God being merciful to His people:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:17-23).

Here, as Moses pleads for the presence of the Most High, He concedes that His glory will be evident, but that neither Moses nor any other would see His specific “face.” Instead, God’s glory, goodness, grace, and compassion would be evident among the people of Israel—demonstrating the substance of what His “face” really is. His attributes, which are frequently embodied in the later New Testament term agapē (agaph), would manifest themselves among the Ancient Israelites. In due time, the presence of His very Spirit would move beyond the Tabernacle or Temple, and would be fully dwelling within the hearts of His people (cf. Ezekiel 35:25-27). We see some of the specific aspects of God’s “face” listed, as He passes beside Moses on Mount Sinai:

“Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the LordGod, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guiltyunpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’” (Exodus 34:6-7).

How much do these attributes sound like the summarizations of the agapē love demonstrated by Messiah Yeshua, who offered Himself up for our sins? Consider the Apostle Paul’s description of what Believers are to embody, as a direct result of Yeshua’s atoning work:

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love [agapē], which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

The Apostle John also writes about the great love of God manifested toward us:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Sonto be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:10-13).

We know that unlike Moses, whose offer of personal atonement was not acceptable (cf. Exodus 32:30), Yeshua’s offer, as the Son of God, is acceptable (Hebrews 9:26-28).

Two Signs

Today as Believers in Yeshua the Messiah, who have been washed of our sins by His work, we should be experiencing the presence of our Creator, as originally revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6-7). We should have His love and His blessings enveloping us, ever-reminding us of how much the Lord really does care for us and wants us to commune with Him! This presence of God should fill us up with His love, which we are surely to demonstrate to all people we encounter.

Yet if we possess the presence of God inside of us, are there any specificactions we can demonstrate which reflect on the goodness He has showered? I would submit to you that remembering Shabbat or the seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18), a day each week when we can rest and experience refreshment in Him, is something that we need to be considering. Shabbat is a time when we get to focus on the Lord in a very unique way, ceasing from our labors, and allowing Him to reveal His presence to us.

How do we learn to balance the value of these two aspects of our faith? How do we remember the many imperatives we see in the Scriptures to demonstrate love toward others (i.e., 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Romans 12:9-17)?

Many generations of Jewish people faithful to the Lord’s ways have experienced the blessings of Shabbat, and we can hope that many who truly pressed into Him on the seventh-day were supernaturally revealed the truth of Messiah Yeshua as they sought God for answers. Similarly—and whether or not today’s Messianics really want to admit it—many generations of Christians faithful to the Old Testament have also experienced the blessings of the Sabbath, albeit they have observed it on the first day. Even though a “Sunday Sabbath” was not our Father’s original intention, He has still honored the dedication of many Christians in past history who strived to make Sunday a day of abstention from work and commerce—something which only in the latter-half of the Twentieth Century was really lost.

In our day as the Father restores His people through the growth of the Messianic movement, not only will Jewish Believers get to experience the blessedness of the Sabbath by their faith in Messiah Yeshua—but many non-Jewish Believers will get to experience some of the things that have made Jewish remembrance of Shabbat so special. The edifying traditions that enable us to really focus on who the Lord is, and which bring us together as families and communities where He dwells, can help focus our remembrance of the Sabbath as we consider who we all are as His redeemed people. We all await the return of our King, and the much greater rest He will bring to us in the future (Hebrews 4:9-11).

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Our Daily Bread — An Important Command – February 4, 2014

When asked by a lawyer to identify the most important rule in life, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). In those words, Jesus summed up what God most desires from us.

I wonder how I can possibly learn to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. Neal Plantinga remarks on a subtle change in this commandment as recorded in the New Testament. Deuteronomy charges us to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength (6:5). Jesus added the word mind. Plantinga explains, “You shall love God with everything you have and everything you are. Everything.”

That helps us change our perspective. As we learn to love God with everything, we begin to see our difficulties as “our light and momentary troubles”—just as the apostle Paul described his grueling ordeals. He had in mind a “far more exceeding and eternal . . . glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

In the advanced school of prayer, where one loves God with the entire soul, doubts and struggles do not disappear, but their effect on us diminishes. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and our urgent questions recede as we learn to trust His ultimate goodness.

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek; give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee. —Prentiss
The most treasured gift we can give to God is one that He can never force us to give—our love.

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“Rules Unto Others” – Mishpatim (Rulings) – TorahScope – JANUARY 24, 2014 –

Mishpatim (Rulings)

Exodus 21:1-24:18
Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26

“Rules Unto Others”

As we turn to Mishpatim this week, we are reminded that the Israelites have just received the Ten Commandments and have heard the terrifying voice of the Lord as He shook Mount Sinai. We recall that the Israelites were so frightened by the sound of God’s voice, that they requested that Moses be their exclusive intermediary to receive the further instructions about how to conduct their lives. As they trembled at a distance, the fear was so great that they thought they would die if they had to continue to hear the voice of the Almighty:

“And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die’”(Exodus 20:18-19).

Apparently, the presence of God was so awesome that the Ancient Israelites relinquished their individual rights to hear Him directly, by choosing Moses to be their intermediary. In this capacity, Moses received instructions about how men and women should conduct their lives with respect toward one another. At the end of Mishpatim, we see the commitment of the Israelites to keep the commandments that Moses delivered to them:

““Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:7-8).

In many ways, as you read Mishpatim and its listing of rules, ordinances, and judgments—the thought comes to mind that these practical instructions are quite consistent with what we often call “the Golden Rule,” treating others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). Examining Mishpatimgives us the annual opportunity to rethink many of the basic instructions on how we should treat others, when human interaction creates inevitable conflict.

Interestingly, the first rulings that Moses focused on relate to the treatment of slaves (Exodus 21:2-11). Here, the Ancient Israelites, having just been freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, are given specific instructions about how to lovingly handle the relationship between a slaveholder and slave. Hopefully, with memories ripe with remembrance of this condition, they will be able to relate to people confined to this humble station in life. The Holy One definitely communicated grand attributes of compassion and lovingkindness to all members of humanity, no matter what their relationship might be one to another.

A New Creature

The instructions in our parashah relate to a variety of interactions that typically occur in any society, especially given the fallen state of man. We are reminded that in spite of us being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9), we have inherited a sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12).Because we are fallen creatures, we require redemption. The nature that we have all inherited in Adam must be replaced by a redeemed nature only available through the salvation of the Messiah Yeshua. Once a person can understand who he or she is in Adam, confessing and repenting of sin, and dying to oneself—then and only then will you be able to receive the new nature provided as the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of you.You are finally able to be born again! You become a new creature in the Messiah, just as the Apostle Paul describes to the Corinthians:

“Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Messiah, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

To many of you this may sound very basic, but if you will recall, even the exemplary Torah teacher and Pharisee Nicodemus did not understand some of these foundational concepts. For whatever reason, Nicodemus could not comprehend the concept of being “born again,” even though he was considered a leader among his people:

“Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Yeshua answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?’” (John 3:9-10).

Many of us are familiar with this passage from the Gospels, and yet have we ever considered the thought that even the foundational teachings of the Torah are frequently not understood by its teachers? It has long been recognized in Biblical Studies that being “born again” or “born from above” was used in Second Temple Judaism to describe proselytes. The Talmud records, “R. Yosé says, ‘A proselyte at the moment of conversion is like a new-born baby’” (b.Yevamot 48b). Yeshua the Messiah simply took the terminology “born again,” and rather than apply it to proselytes to Judaism—applied it to His followers. This might not always be obvious to some of you, so think about whether the Torah teacher you listen to on a regular basis is really familiar with its basic instructions regarding holiness and proper living.

It is critical for us to consistently turn to Moses’ Teaching in order to learn more and more about our human condition and how we should conduct ourselves. The main reason that the Torah exists is to help define sin for humanity, and regulate the behavior that the Lord expects His people to demonstrate in the world.

We must each be thankful for the opportunity to be reckoned as the sons and daughters of the Living God, via our adoption in Yeshua. But for whatever reasons, we frequently need to be reminded of our responsibilities, even after we have inherited new life in the Messiah. Paul comments about the awesomeness of Believers’ adoption into God’s family in his letter to the Romans:

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body”(Romans 8:15-23).

Just as Paul writes, we as Believers in Yeshua do not walk in a spirit of slavery, but instead in a spirit of adoption as children of the Most High. Hallelujah for His mercy to us! Yet, we each eagerly await the complete redemption of Creation, including our total selves at the resurrection. But, let us now turn to the Torah portion and see what our Father wants us to consider, as once again His Instruction communicates basic life principles to His sons and daughters.

Civil Laws

As you read through Mishpatim, you are reminded of some of the basic instructions about how we should treat one another when the inevitable problems of human interaction occur. We see detailed, various ordinances about personal injuries (Exodus 21:12-36), property rights (Exodus 22:1-15), sundry laws (Exodus 22:16-23:9), as well as the stipulations to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 23:10-13) and observe the three festivals of ingathering (Exodus 23:14-18). The basic yardstick of instruction is essentially “the Golden Rule.” When God’s people face challenges today, these various instructions surely articulate and inform us on how He would have conflicts resolved.

Interestingly, as you read these rulings, you will note that a tenor of fairness, equality, and compassion seems to permeate the statements. If the Spirit of God resides inside of you, then when you read these various ordinances, the Spirit should bear witness that the remedies and treatments for various violations of conduct seem perfectly equitable. Over many centuries, these very statements have been incorporated into the civil laws of societies influenced by the Judeo-Christian values established in Holy Writ. This is not to say that all of these laws are reiterated exactly, but that the essence is certainly there in our Western judicial system. (Even pagan societies that do not acknowledge the God of Israel have benefited from the Torah’s moral message.)

The difference between when these commands were originally given to Israel and today is that we live in a post-resurrection era that has made the understanding of these rulings much clearer, through the teachings of Yeshua and His Apostles. We do not stone children for striking or cursing their parents, because Yeshua has atoned for this penalty (cf. Colossians 2:14). However, when you encounter statements that speak of capital punishment, you realize how important God considers adherence to the commandment regarding how parents should be honored (Exodus 21:17).

When you couple these kinds of statements with other reiterations about: keeping the Sabbath, the appointed times, the first-born offerings, not bearing false witness, properly treating the poor, widows, orphans, speaking out about leaders, lending money, etc., you begin to realize that at times throughout your life you have probably not followed these rulings too well. You have probably broken all the rules. As a result of breaking these rules, you are therefore guilty and need to pay restitution. Some of the restitution principles are articulated in this parashah, but when you are completely honest with yourself, you begin to realize that you have probably not paid the price perfectly for your various transgressions.

The Almighty God Himself is most aware of each and every transgression we have committed. He knows the when, where, and to what degree each of us has sinned. He knows that each person is indeed bankrupt in trespasses and sins. Eventually, in spite of our various mortal attempts to keep all of these commandments, especially coupled with the remaining instructions that are seen throughout the Bible, one should hopefully come to the logical conclusion that he or she cannot possibly avoid the penalties that ultimately lead to death and eternal separation from God. If you really think through all of these things seriously, the final conclusion would be not too unlike what many cried out to the Apostles at various times: Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:33). An inability to keep God’s Law is to show us the need for a Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24; Romans 10:4, Grk.).

Yeshua’s Upgrade

Yeshua came to Earth and was sacrificed at Golgotha (Calvary), paying the penalty for our sins and offering a permanent atonement. But long before being executed, He spent time with His Disciples and others, trying to help them understand some of the basic principles of His Father’s Instruction. Yeshua’s teachings bring a great depth and dimension to what we are constantly learning in the Torah—some of you for the first time. Many of the things Yeshua says are almost impossible for a person who has nothing more than a natural, fleshly mind. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, a natural person is incapable of receiving things from the Spirit:

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

Consequently, we have a great number of people throughout the ages who have attempted to understand and comment about the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles—with many now trying to understand the Torah. Unfortunately, many have not dealt with the reality about coming to the end of themselves and being born again from above, in order to have the spiritual capacity to even understand the basic teachings of the Bible. This, you can imagine, can create a tremendous amount of confusion, as one will be most prone to misunderstand the essentials of salvation, holiness, and accomplishing God’s mission for His Creation.

When one reads the words of Yeshua, and His clarification about and/or elaboration upon the Torah principles that are seen in a reading like Mishpatim, many are befuddled. Consider the instruction that deals with the loss of an eye or a tooth (Exodus 21:24, 27). Read how Yeshua applies this in His Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

In Mishpatim, some commandments are given about how one is supposed to be compensated for the loss of an eye or a tooth, or whatever else has been lost. Some of these circumstances will arise due to fallen human nature. Out of anger or passion, a person might strike someone and cause an eye or a tooth to be lost, and so the Torah issues instruction on how restitution is to be made. But Yeshua remarks about the spiritual causes of such a loss. The natural inclination when injured is to injure back, but the Messiah instead directs people to receive another blow and turn the other check. If love for one’s fellow human beings is imperative, what is going to convict a person who has lost his temper and control of his emotions more? The perfect restitution for the infraction, or a response out of love that indicates how physical harm can ultimately do little damage? As Yeshua continues in this particular passage, He expresses the meaning of true love established by the Torah:

“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on therighteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:40-48).

Yeshua tells those in His audience to give up shirts, walk extra miles, give freely, love their enemies, and pray for those who persecute. Why? Because then and only then will you be “sons of your Father who is in heaven.” He concludes with the stellar requirement that one is to be perfect, just as the Father in Heaven is perfect. Yeshua knows this is impossible for human beings to attain in their own strength, and yet He clearly declares it as a requirement for following Him. Following Yeshua’s teachings are virtually impossible without the Holy Spirit and His atoning work covering our lives. The status of being excellent in the Lord, much less perfect—requires total commitment, steady spiritual refinement, and consistent discipleship in maturity.

We have much to consider this week as we reflect on the ordinances and precepts that God has established for His people. May we hold fast to those rules, so just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we too can claim what the ancients claimed:

“He took the Book of the Covenant and read it in earshot of the people, and they said, ‘Everything that Hashem has said, we will do and we will obey!’Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and he said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that Hashem sealed with you concerning all these matters’” (Exodus 24:7-8, ATS).

Today, as Believers in Yeshua, we can experience the fullness of the things that the ancients only heard about. While Moses only sprinkled animal blood on the people, the author of Hebrews testifies that the blood of Yeshua Himself inaugurates the New Covenant—where the commandments of God are to be written upon our hearts and we can have great confidence to go to the Father:

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

We should not only have a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27), washed by the blood of the Messiah—but we should also have our hearts and minds made clean, eagerly able to perform God’s service. May we all be blessed in this understanding as we consider His rules, and live them out as a testimony of what He has done for us!

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“Silence of the Limping” – V’yishlach (He sent)

V’yishlach (He sent)

Genesis 32:3-36:43
Hosea 11:7-12:12 (A)
Obadiah 1:1-21 (S)


“Silence of the Limping”

Once again, students of the Torah are challenged when meditating on our weekly portions, which I have found to contain a wealth of information to contemplate. When I sit down to write my Torah commentaries, the choice of a subject matter to focus on can be overwhelming. There are many critical events to consider discussing, so one really has to search his heart and find out just what nugget of truth the Lord wants you to focus upon. After all, lengthy books have been written about certain aspects of the life and personal character of Jacob. And, my Torah commentaries are intended to be reflective, and not be like some of the technical, verse-by-verse resources that we have in our ministry library.

As I filter my life through the lens of God’s Torah and plead for personally needed edification, I am magnetically drawn into the character strengths and flaws of Jacob. It is amazing how truly representative he is of so many of us! I can very easily identify with Jacob’s struggles as a chosen vessel for God’s Divine purposes. If you have ever endured any difficulties in your own life, then you can probably also empathize with many of Jacob’s character traits—perhaps his apparent silence as he limps down the mountain trails of modern-day Samaria and Judea. Consider the following verses and Jacob’s absent response:

“Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.’ But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go’” (Genesis 34:11-17).

Just contemplate this critical juncture in the family, chosen by the Lord to be a light to the world, as they reenter the Promised Land and settle around the community of Shechem. At this point in the narrative, the defiling sexual encounter with Dinah has already occurred (Genesis 34:1-5), and restitution has to be made. Now a proposition is offered by the young prince Shechem and his father Hamor, to Jacob and his sons.

What really caught my attention, after rereading this selection of verses a number of times, is that Jacob is deafeningly silent when the proposals are being discussed. In fact, the Scriptures indicate that his sons answered the requests deceitfully, and with what is ultimately demonstrated to be murder in their hearts. But for some reason, the Patriarch Jacob, who had recently been renamed Israel in an awesome encounter with the Holy One (Genesis 32:24-32), did not speak up. Why was Jacob silent? Can we really know what was going on in his heart and mind?

It is apparent that by the time this event occurred in Jacob’s life, he was confidently aware that the God of his fathers was providing, protecting, and preserving him and his family for the fulfillment of His promises. What was it about Jacob that caused him to just bite his tongue, and not overrule his sons’ conniving requests as the elder? Could it be that he was plagued with the same problem that many followers of God struggle with: the age-old battle between the Spirit and the flesh?

Our Common Human Condition

Lamentably, many of us have different flesh patterns which exercise their influences on choices we consider and decisions we make. Jacob’s life may be considered to be an “open book,” which we can all benefit and learn from, if we study and contemplate the things he did, said, and in this case did not say. Hopefully, if we are totally honest with ourselves, those wrestling with sinful behaviors will confess that they sometimes have about the same amount of success overcoming various flesh patterns as Jacob appears to have had.

Regrettably, confessing our faults is easier said than acted upon, considering the record we see in the Scriptures of fallen humanity. Even with the benefits of progressive revelation, many who claim a belief in the Creator God—and even His Son Messiah Yeshua—still struggle with battles of the flesh, and in experiencing victory over them. In Romans ch. 7, the Apostle Paul describes a viewpoint with which too many people can relate:

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Yeshua the Messiah our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).

Many people are inclined to read Romans ch. 7 as Paul giving us information about himself, and that it is fairly common for Believers to have sin problems that they wrestle with and struggle to overcome. Paul seems to be telling us that he himself, even as a born again Believer and a chosen apostle of God, struggles with sin.

Certainly while we live in a sinful world and we will have to overcome temptation, is it appropriate for a Believer to use Romans 7 as an “excuse” to sin? In the recent past, many scholars have been led to think that Paul is not, in fact, talking about himself—but rather is speaking as a hypothetical Believer who is struggling with sin. Paul himself, contrary to the Romans 7 sinner, is a relatively mature Believer who has overcome the vast majority of temptations.

Regardless of which view you take, the realities of our fallen world should force us to rely on the grace of God, because it is only by the salvation provided in Yeshua that “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). Only by crying out to the Lord, will we be able to overcome temptation!

Many of the sinful temptations that we encounter as Believers are simply flesh patterns that can be easily conquered, if we reach out in faith to our Heavenly Father and learn to discipline ourselves. Regardless of Jacob’s, or our own deceitful flesh patterns that we may still be wrestling with here or there, God is still able to accomplish His will, just as the people destined to be His own possession did this as seen throughout the Torah and Tanakh. Let us take a look.

The Journey Home

Over twenty years have passed since Jacob left his brother Esau, and now, after reconciling with his father-in-law Laban (Genesis 31:43-55), he is faced with the prospect of facing his sibling and perceived enemy. Remember that the reason Jacob journeyed to the east was initially to depart from the wrath of his brother’s rage (Genesis 27:42-28:5). Now with two wives, two concubines, twelve children, many slaves, and much livestock, he is returning to his original home with great trepidation. He vividly recalls Esau’s plans to kill him. In this illuminating parashah, Jacob’s character is permanently altered, having the socket of his thigh dislocated by wrestling with the Divine being all night long (Genesis 32:24-32). Yet Jacob not only received the blessing of being renamed Israel (he who struggles with God) for such endurance, but for many generations following he represents the need for each of God’s followers to become dependent on Him—and perhaps how people often literally or figuratively come “limping” into the Kingdom.

But before we as Believers, like Jacob, can limp—or even drag ourselves—successfully into the presence of the Most High, we need to remember that in spite of our most fervent promises and prayers, He is still in ultimate control of things. If the Lord really does have a call upon your life to serve Him and make a difference for Him,regardless of your innate inability to fulfill your part of your pledges, He is big enough to work through you to accomplish His will. In spite of all of the negative idiosyncrasies of Jacob, God was still able to use Him and Jacob will be in the Kingdom (cf. Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28).

Promises Made and Broken

Do you recall Jacob’s vow to God to give ten percent of all that he had as payment for His provision and protection, from the previous Torah portion?

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You’” (Genesis 28:20-22).

Here, Jacob made a solemn vow at Bethel (Heb. Beit’El, latyB; meaning “house of God”) to give God ten percent of his wealth, as compensation for His protection and provision. But notice one other thing that was also pledged. At this critical juncture on his journey east, in his heart, Jacob yearned to return to his father Isaac’s house safely. Did Jacob at all forget about this? We know that the Lord did not, because in spite of Jacob’s personal problems, he is able to return to his home country—and he even finds his brother Esau in a somewhat amicable mood:

“‘Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.’ Esau said, ‘Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.’ But he said, ‘What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord’” (Genesis 33:14-15).

This scene occurs after Jacob’s incredible experience at Peniel where he encountered, and even wrestled with, what some think was a pre-Incarnate manifestation of Messiah Yeshua. Even after this life altering experience, where he received his limp, Jacob still has a human tendency to say something that he does not really mean. Was his fear of Esau still a motivating force in his life? What about his statements made to the Lord some twenty years earlier on his trek east? Did he forget that God wanted him to return to Isaac’s house, to carry on the call that He had given the Patriarchs? Surely, God would protect him. It appears that for some reason, Jacob was content to simply cross the Jordan and settle in the land around Shechem:

“Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel” (Genesis 33:18-20).

Here in Shechem, the Scriptures record that Jacob followed the family tradition established by his grandfather Abraham when he purchased the caves at Machpelah in Mamre near Hebron. How could this be? Years earlier, a fleeing Jacob indicated a hunger to be reunited with his father (Genesis 28:21), and even weeks earlier, as the broken and renamed Israel, he promises his brother that he would come to his father in Seir. So why does Jacob stop at Shechem, and not proceed any further?

“Just Give Me Peace”

Jacob changes his mind and purchases land near Shechem. Soon, his growing family and extensive herds become permanent fixtures among the Shechemites. He even erects an altar that signifies his allegiance to the Lord, an indication that he does not plan on moving anywhere anytime soon. Does he not remember his vows to the Lord and the corresponding covenants promised to him?

Most can identify with Jacob/Israel at this point in his life. He just wants peace. He has just come through the trauma of encountering his brother, and certainly felt a great deal of relief that his life and the lives of his family have been spared. He knows that Esau has become very wealthy, and that Esau’s holdings would perhaps create a conflict if he relocates to the area around Hebron, which includes the region of Seir to the east. He somehow justifies his decision to simply settle into the community around Shechem. The Scriptures do not indicate how long Jacob and his family had been a part of the Shechem area, but in due time, circumstances erupt that create serious tension between the indigenous population and the children of Jacob/Israel:

“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force” (Genesis 34:1-2).

Whether Dinah was actually raped, or whether she had consensual relations with Shechem the prince because he convinced her to do so, is not the point. The fact remains that she ventured into the neighborhood, and became known among the young people of Shechem’s community. In time, she attracts the attention of the young prince. Before long, whether by force or enticement, the sexual act takes place. Apparently, the prince is deeply attracted to Dinah and he asks for her hand in marriage:

“He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this young girl for a wife.’ Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done. But Hamor spoke with them, saying, ‘The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it’” (Genesis 34:3-10).

Jacob was in quite a dilemma. After he heard the reports of this transgression, he waited silently to ponder his reaction. He might have recalled when he had his first encounter with Rachel at the well in Paddan-Aram many years earlier:

“Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father” (Genesis 29:11-12).

In the social mores of that day, it was not proper for a man to kiss a woman at their initial meeting, but Jacob had succumbed to the physical attraction he bore his cousin. And as it turns out, they ended up being far more than “kissing cousins.” Is it possible that Jacob understood how passion and longing could be used to further God’s plans for His people? He had certainly seen how it worked out in his life. He might have concluded that God was working through these unfortunate circumstances with Dinah and Shechem.

A Deafening Silence

Hamor, the father of Shechem, makes a plea for the hand of Dinah for his son (Genesis 34:6ff). But what is interesting to note is that Jacob never responds to any of the overtures. Instead, it is his sons who retort back with the conditions of intermarriage. Why was he so silent on the matter? Did he simply consent to the arrangement that was proposed, and allow his sons to figure out the finer details? Certainly, if he disagreed with the proposal, he could have said something, and the conditions for family unions would not be acted upon. Instead, Jacob/Israel, knowing that his sons were livid, allowed the conditions to be offered. Did he know what was in their hearts, or was he more interested in maintaining peace? Here are the conditions that were determined:

“But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go” (Genesis 34:13-17).

Before too long, the requirement to circumcise all the men of Shechem was enacted in order for the intermarriage and assimilation to take place. But what was intended to take place did not occur. The treachery that was in the hearts of Simeon and Levi surfaced, and they completed a murderous engagement. As our Torah portion summarizes,

“Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses” (Genesis 34:25-29).

After the entire male population of Shechem is murdered—which was fairly easily to liquidate thanks to the pain of circumcision—the rest of the brothers complete the task of stealing all the wealth of the city. Can you imagine such deceitful actions being committed by the chosen people of God? Where was the compassion for the indiscretion of Dinah, and the young prince Shechem who wanted to make restitution? There was no mercy or grace found in the proud hearts of these sons of Jacob/Israel. Instead, murder and revenge prevailed. After these vile acts, the reaction of Jacob is finally recorded as he rebukes Simeon and Levi:

“Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.’ But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister as a harlot?’” (Genesis 34:30-31).

The dialogue ends, and Jacob and company move.

A Divine Response

Jacob quickly recognizes that these actions have imperiled his entire family. There is no Biblical record of Jacob responding to the pleas that Simeon and Levi offered in their defense. Instead, the next recorded statement comes from God Himself. The Lord reminds Jacob to return to Bethel to recall the promises that were made to Him:

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau’” (Genesis 35:1).

Another altar is erected, memorializing the promises received (Genesis 35:7, 9-15). The journey continues down the hills of the Promised Land toward Hebron, and Jacob finally gets back on the trail to his father Isaac’s home. But again there are challenges. His beloved wife Rachel dies at the birth of Benjamin in what is modern-day Bethlehem (Genesis 35:16-20). The love of Jacob’s life is taken from him. On the journey, Jacob’s eldest son Reuben sins, thus forfeiting his position to become the leader of the next generation:

“Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it. Now there were twelve sons of Jacob” (Genesis 35:21-22).

And, the journey back home continues… Finally, the full circle is completed and Jacob/Israel is back at his father’s side. The promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are being fulfilled. And, the most ironic thing occurs from our human perspective as Isaac dies and his sons, Esau and Jacob, bury him:

“Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (Genesis 35:27-29).

The Journey Completed

Regardless of all the bad decisions that Jacob made along his journey, the promise to be returned to the land of his fathers is completed. Of course, he is without the love of his life, Rachel, and is further burdened by the sinful acts of his sons in Shechem during the final leg of their trek south. But he does not forget these critical events in his life. In fact, the whole future of the nation of Israel is, in many respects, determined by some of the things which occurred during these travels down the hills of what would later be called Samaria and Judea.

In his final days, as Israel is blessing his sons, the ultimate destinies of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are uttered. Because of their lustful and treacherous acts they lose the right to receive the blessings bestowed upon the firstborn. Instead, such a firstborn status is ultimately passed onto Judah:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk’” (Genesis 49:1-12).

From these blessings and penalizations, you can see how the actions which took place in Shechem were indeed inappropriate. If the murders were consistent with God’s laws and His true intention, then Simeon or Levi would have inherited the blessing of firstborn. But instead, those blessings were passed onto Judah.

Lessons Learned

In our study of the Torah, today’s challenge is to reflect upon the life of Jacob and his sons and seek a better way. What is our Heavenly Father trying to reveal to us as we contemplate the traumatic life of Jacob, and his struggle to return to the home of his father? Regardless of Jacob’s bad decisions and the consequences of them, God is still going to accomplish His will via the people He has chosen to represent Him in the world. For unknown reasons, He does not cover up or hide the transgressions of the people chosen to be His own possession. The Biblical record includes their faults, demonstrating such a chosen people to truly be people.

This reality should not encourage Believers to pursue things contrary to God’s way. Instead, with the benefits of the Scriptural records preserved for us, we should learn to honor the verbal commitments that we have made to the Lord and to each other. We should recognize that what we say and what we do have long term consequences for us as well as our children. We should learn from the mistakes of those who have preceded us, so we do not repeat them. We see that Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were denied the blessing of being the chosen, main leaders of Israel.

Spirit-Led Decisions

Like the Apostle Paul who lists the example of a sinner in Romans ch. 7, wanting to overcome temptation, if we similarly struggle, we should be willing to admit our faults and strive to do better. Jacob had faults that did hamper his effectiveness in accomplishing God’s purpose for his life, and what we commonly remember him for are the good things he achieved near the end of his life—not necessarily in the time period we are considering in thisparashah.

We each should strive to let the Spirit of God and His will prevail in our decisions, not succumbing to any excuses as to why our way might be better, and certainly not waiting until the end of our lives to be the most effective in His service. We each have choices to make, and if we are filled up with the Ruach HaKodesh we should seriously consider the negative consequences that will result if we are guided by a sinful ethic. As we mature in our walks of faith, it should be natural for us to simply choose the path that the Lord has laid out, guided by the imperative of love. Paul summarizes what God’s love (agapē) is to chiefly embody in his words to the Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away…When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 11).

Walking in unconditional love is, at times, a difficult action to take, but one which pleases our Heavenly Father. It definitely exhibits the traits of a maturing saint who submits himself or herself to the required will of the Lord.

Secondly, when encountering those inside, and even outside of the Body of Messiah, we need to exercise grace and mercy. Yeshua the Messiah spoke specifically about our natural, fleshly proclivity to judge others:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

If we take this truth to heart, we will knowingly conclude that our flesh wants to justify itself without first examining its own faults. We might look down on others who do not see things we way we do, or who remain in immaturity. Rather than be a partial human judge—it is much better to humble ourselves, pray for those who are wrestling with issues of sin, and let the impartial Judge, God Himself, work through the issues with such people. Who in his or her right mind would want to judge another person’s heart, when such a person’s own heart has glaring deficiencies that need to be worked through?

Finally, we have an excellent summary remark to consider by James the Just:

“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

Is it not better for Spirit-led followers of Messiah Yeshua to seek this level of restitution with those who have strayed from the truth? Such a restoration, though, needs to be tempered with the same love and mercy that saved us!

The life of Jacob and his choices have been preserved for our instruction. Jacob was always reminded of his encounter with God at Peniel as he limped through the remainder of his life (Genesis 32:25, 31-32). Have you ever had a dramatic, life altering event, that has initiated needed change away from the ways of the flesh? As you contemplate V’yishlach this week, what important lesson might you be overlooking? Hopefully, unlike Jacob who wrestled with God, the only limps that we have in life are those that come from bent knees in continual prayer and humble submission to God’s will—and not any kind of reminder for chastisement from Him. In such prayer, we will learn the discernment of when to speak, and when to be silent.

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by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]

The apostle Paul writes of Christ’s ascension into heaven: “And having spoiled
principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them
in it” (Colossians 2:15). That’s right! Staggering behind our Lord’s triumphant
procession was the prince of darkness himself, bound in chains. And behind the
defeated devil — underneath the wheels of the heavenly hosts — were all the
powers of darkness, bound and vanquished. They were being put to an open shame
before all those who had died in faith before the cross.

“And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall
they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Revelation
2:27). Jesus entered the gates carrying in His hand a scepter of righteousness,
His “rod of iron” with which He rules all nations. Then, after His triumphant
entrance, He took His rightful place on the throne in full possession of all
power, authority and dominion.

What a glorious picture! Satan is not in control. Communism is not in control.
Atheism is not in control. No, the enemies of Christ exist only by His
permission. And right now they only continue to fill up their cups of iniquity.
Jesus is in control of all things and one day, when He is ready, He will “break
them with a rod of iron; [He] shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”
(Psalm 2:9).

Beloved, our understanding of Christ’s victory over Satan and the dominion of
sin cannot be a vague, confused theology. We must know and understand that
Satan is totally defeated. He cannot hold us prisoner, and Christ has freed us
by His blood from every bondage. Now He sits on His throne with all power and
authority, offering us peace, joy and freedom.

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