Torah Commentary – Joined To HaShem – Mishpatim (Rulings) – Getting Into His Mind – February 10, 2017

Torah Commentary – Mishpatim (Rulings)

jesus-jw

Exodus 21:1-24:18
Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26
Matthew 5:38-42; 15:1-20
Acts 23:1-11
Hebrews 9:15-22; 10:28-39
Getting Into His Mind
If you ever want an interesting study, type in “Mind of Messiah” in a Bible search. Of course you may have to use the word “Christ”, but nonetheless it will take you on quite a journey. One of my favorite verses revealed in the search is Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Messiah Yeshua.” One reason I find this so fascinating is because I see this verse in the Tabernacle. If we overlay a shadow of Messiah’s earthly body on a slide of the Tabernacle we find that the place His head would be is the place where the Ark resided. What is in the Ark? We find the Torah and the Mitzvot (The Ten Words and the instructions of how to carry them out.).  We see pictured in the Tabernacle the Torah is His mind. This thought is quite a ways from my denominational instruction which the “Mind of Messiah” was something up for interpretation.
We can look at the above illustration like this. Torah teaches us how Yah thinks. Torah teaches us His mind, how to get in His head. Stop and think about that for a moment. Can we really learn to think like He thinks, act like He acts, do what He would do and does do? The answer is an all too simple yes. We just need to look at the words revealed and allow those words to direct our thinking and actions.
This week the Torah portion is Mishpatim, Rulings. Now I would imagine most of you do not have slaves, nor are we slaves so these words may seem irrelevant. We might want to skip over these instructions. Not so fast. Are you an employer or an employee? Are you self employed hiring your services out to others? Do you volunteer in public service? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions then you can translate these words into your life and relationship with those you are interacting with. For example let’s say you work for a company and have a boss. Do you work with the attitude of doing the minimum to make it through the day and not get fired?  Or do you do your job with thanksgiving as unto the glory of our Heavenly Master?
Let’s look at another ruling.
In Exodus 22:17, we are not to allow a sorceress to live. Again, most of us probably do not have a sorceress living under our roof, but what about that horoscope you may read just because you are curious? How about the fortune cookie at your favorite Chinese restaurant? Maybe the Harry Potter book you have been meaning to throw out. Are these types of sorcerers we are allowing to live in our lives and homes?
As you can see through the examples, these rulings are all a part of learning how He thinks, putting on His mind.
What does this way of thinking do? It will set us apart and cause us to not only be peculiar unto Him, but peculiar to others. It will cause us to walk in a way different than the crowd. Oh, wait a minute that is part of His mind also. In Exodus 23:2 we are told to not follow the crowd. Why? Let me answer with a question. When has the crowd ever been right? Can you name one time? I can’t. All I see in history is the crowd heading toward destruction.
On this subject I see something happening in our day. It is based on of the words of Yeshua in Matthew 7:13-14 where He speaks of the narrow gate versus the broad gate. Allow me to ask another question in light of this verse. Do you see the road and the gate getting narrower in our day? I sure do. What I am wondering today is just how narrow the road and gate are going to be by the time this all wraps up.
To illustrate this I have added something to the teaching I do on the Tabernacle. I now have four posts which make an entrance to my representation of the Tabernacle. The teaching is in three sessions and at the beginning of each session we make the gate to enter a bit narrower. The illustration has made an impact on participants.
How do we deal with the narrowing gate of our day? First we must decide who we are going to follow, the Almighty or the crowd. If you are reading this commentary I think you have already answered that question. The next step is growing in our understanding of His mind more than we have in the past. Think of it this way. What you know about His mind has taken you to the place you are today. If you desire to move further you will need to know His mind better than you do today.
How do we do this? Is the answer just too easy for us? Is it as simple as slowing down while reading His Word instead of rushing through? Is it as easy as praying for further understanding?
One last thought on this. In Exodus 23:29 the Hebrews were told that when they went into the Land it would take time to drive out the enemies. Can we see this as part of our above thoughts? Does knowing His mind take time? Does it take time to replace our old way of thinking with His way of thinking? Is it an instant work? I think we all know the answer, but are we willing to pay the price and take the time? I can only answer that one for myself!  (Click to Source)
Shalom and Be Strong,
Mike Clayton
Joined To HaShem

CLICK HERE for the finest faith based personalized and compassionate addiction
recovery program – right from the comfort of your home.

Torah Commentary – Vayigash (He approached) – The Day! – SCRIPTURES FOR December 23, 2017

Living Torah Commentary

Vayigash (He approached) 
Genesis 44:18-47:27
Ezekiel 37:15-28
Acts 7:9-16
9705c-sixth2bseal2brevelation
The Day!
This Torah portion may well be my favorite of all! To consider the prophetic shadows within these words is overwhelming to me. I have no idea how many times I have tried to imagine the scene we are reading. Yosef is standing in front of his brothers. They have no idea who this man is standing in front of them. Yosef has an Egyptian name; he looks like an Egyptian, dresses like an Egyptian. Not in their wildest of dreams would they have thought of Yosef.
Now consider the Egyptians in the room. Who do they think Yosef is? Some may remember being told he was a Hebrew, but does it really matter to them? They see him as now being one of their own culture.
Then there is Yosef, the only person in the room that knows who he really is. The desire to reveal himself not only to his brothers, but to all present is burning inside of him, but he can’t. Not yet. The testing of the sons of Israel is not quite finished.
Last week, Binyamin is brought to the forefront of the story. He is the one used by Yosef to look deep into the inward souls of his ten brothers. Yosef does not know how this will turn out. As far as he knows they are going to leave Binyamin the same way they left him. He rolled the dice and has not seen how they land.
In the end it will be Y’hudah who will step up to defend his half-brother. Just imagine how difficult it is for Yosef to stand and hear his half-brother come to the rescue of his full brother. It is more than Yosef can bear. Can you imagine what began to go through the boys minds when Yosef cleared the room of all the Egyptians? The brothers are not seeing this turn out very well!
Yosef turns back to his brothers with tears and a huge lump in his throat to utter some of the most beautiful words in Scripture, “Ani Yoseph” (I am Joseph).
Why do I refer to “Ani Yosef” as beautiful words? These words are the shadow of a future event in which Messiah stands before His family to reveal Himself. That day we all may be a bit undone when His true nature is revealed before us. I pray that my whole being will scream with desire for that day to be soon and in my lifetime.
Here is a twist though. Have you ever thought about how much He desires to be revealed?
Think again about Yosef. Every fiber of his being was screaming at him to speak the words of revelation, but he had to remain silent. Would the boys sell out Binyamin like they had done him so many years earlier or would they stand for each other no matter the personal consequences?
So what is holding Messiah back from being revealed in our day? Is it because His desire is not there? I think not. Is it possibly because world events are not quite in place? After all, Yah can make world events happen transpire quickly if needed. What if the answer is that we have not yet passed the test whether we will sell each other out or defend each other no matter the cost?
 At some point in time the shadows of this story will be the substance of reality. If there really is a part we can do to bring it to pass sooner rather than later, how about we get with it. Let’s start today to treat others like the family which will one day be changed from the most dysfunctional to ever live to the one which will be the model of righteousness and love for the entire world to see.  (Click to Source)

 

Bereisheet – In the Beginning – “Torah and Faith” – 9 October, 2017

Bereisheet

4f282-bible2bstudy

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1-6:8
Isaiah 42:5-43:10 (A); 42:5-21 (S)

“Torah and Faith”


by Mark Huey

One of the many blessings bestowed upon people, within the Messianic community of faith, is the annual opportunity to return to a study of, and reflection upon, the many profound truths embodied in the weekly Torah readings. It is here within the Chumash or Pentateuch, that Messiah followers can consider the foundation of our faith, as we each seek to be faithful to the God of Creation, pondering His ways and acts for humankind. It is in these first five books of the Holy Writ, that God communicates, without reservation, not only His faithfulness to a chosen people—but most assuredly, the absolute need for His people to faithfully seek Him with all of their hearts and souls (Deuteronomy 4:29).

With a new Torah cycle now upon us, it is my intention to focus the attention of each of us on the critical element of faith (Heb. emunah; Grk. pistis), as first thematically witnessed within the weekly portions—and then obviously present in various important places throughout the remainder of Scripture. According to the author of Hebrews, who in Hebrews ch. 11 focuses on many of the faithful predecessors of our common belief, without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). This year’s Torah teachings will attempt to help the modern-day, Messianic follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who believes in the Messiah Yeshua and has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to increase his or her “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3) in the Lord in order to please Him. Hopefully, this enhancement in faith will result in promoting a greater usefulness for advancing His Kingdom, so that you will find yourself rewarded by Him via your trust and obedience.

For all people who trust in the God of Israel, the study of His Torah is something foundational to understanding the totality of the Holy Scriptures. Most assuredly, the basis for the remainder of the Scriptures comes from the certainty in the human heart, that In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).[1] This opening word to the Bible, speaks to not only a certain starting point in past history for the origin of the universe, but the undeniable fact that there is an Omniscient, Omnipotent God, who has made all things according to His intelligent design. Without affirming this conviction, based on faith in the supernatural act of Creation—much of which is beyond human intellect and comprehension—the balance of Holy Scripture would be nothing more than a collection of interesting stories and philosophical speculations, written and compiled from a variety of merely human authors.

Genuine belief in the Creator God and His revealed Word is essential to being a man or woman of faith! Without a steadfast confidence in the God of the Bible, belief in Him, and His plan for each of us and the world at large, is highly unlikely. Possessing faith in the LORD God, and in the Messiah He has sent, is imperative if we want to understand our destiny as human beings.

The Concept of Faith

It is critical for us to take a brief look at the concept of faith, and what it entails for us as the people of God. In order to do this, there might not be a better place in the Bible than the previously referenced Hebrews ch. 11, to see where a succinct definition of faith is articulated:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Here, it is stated how “faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see” (Phillips New Testament). Followers of God from antiquity past gained His approval by possessing faith in Him—but such “faith” is not a visible, tangible entity. Faith, rather, is intended to be an intense trust or belief implanted into the heart and mind, rooted within a hope that looks beyond the seen world, directed toward an unseen God who created the world. This is something that goes beyond the natural revelation of God in the Creation (cf. Romans 1:19-20), as it is something that each person is to possess as the trials and tribulations of life force us to mature in our relationship with Him, and in our reckoning of His ways and instruction. Faith in God includes an intrinsic desire to know Him as the loving Creator, who has wondrously fashioned everything that exists. In the view of the Apostle Paul, God has allotted to each of us a measure of faith:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

Hopefully, by considering the great examples of faith—or faithlessness—through our course of Torah study this year, God will mercifully increase the measure of faith that each of us has. In so doing, may true seekers of God learn more about Him, and be strengthened in order to more fully walk in His ways! May we also have some answers to the questions we have been asking of our Heavenly Father, in terms of how we are to serve Him and what we are to do, during our time here on Earth.

Adam, Eve, Belief, and the Fall

Without a doubt, it requires a certain amount of faith in God, to believe in the Creation account of Genesis chs. 1-2. God took six distinct periods or yamim,[2] in order to form our universe, including: the cosmos, our solar system, Planet Earth, its vegetation, sea and land creatures, and ultimately humanity. People today, who declare faith in the God of the Bible, give Him absolute credit for bringing into existence all that is seen on this planet, and in what lies beyond—and also what they cannot see in terms of microscopic objects and other dimensions. The pinnacle of God’s Creation is undoubtedly the man and woman (Psalm 8), who were made by God in His image (tzelem) to rule over the Earth:

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’…God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).

One would think that living in the Garden of Eden, where God walked with the first man and woman (Genesis 3:8), and with the creatures and vegetation subject to their dominion—would have been sufficient reason for them to exhibit significant confidence in the goodness and provision of Him as Creator. The instruction given by God, to not eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, seems pretty straightforward and simple enough to follow (cf. Genesis 2:15-25). Yet as is known to each of us, the fact that there was a rule to follow, which forbade its fruit from being eaten, allowed the serpent to enter in and tempt Eve, who had been formed after Adam, and had fewer encounters with God than he did (1 Timothy 2:13).[3] When encountering the serpent, Eve reported how God has forbidden the tree’s fruit from being eaten, but she was taken in by the serpent’s crafty words—not having been informed enough by her husband as to the consequences of what eating the fruit will bring:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”? The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).

When Adam and Eve both ate the forbidden fruit, they did not “drop dead.” Once they knew the intimate presence of God coming to them in the cool of the evening (cf. Genesis 3:8), but after eating the forbidden fruit, they found themselves “naked,” and they knew something had been spiritually altered. It was at this point that the first human couple’s belief, trust, faith, or confidence in God’s order was challenged. With the intimacy of knowing God in an incredibly personal way—what was going to happen now that God has been disobeyed?

As a result of disobedience, Adam and Eve had their eyes opened to the knowledge of good and evil. They were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and by being expelled from Paradise they were going to have to contend with new challenges that were not a part of their previous, privileged time. Curses were issued upon them. There would be pain in childbirth, and a battle of the sexes would erupt with a woman possessing an “urge” (NJPS)[4] for her husband, who would in turn dominate her. There would be difficulty in having to see vegetation grow, as outside of the Garden of Eden would be thorns and thistles. Most importantly, physical death would come, and the body would return to the physical elements from which it was hewn:

“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:16-19).

Rather than experiencing physical death immediately, Adam and Eve were instead expelled from God’s most intimate presence, in which they could receive eternal life and never-ending communion with Him. Cherubim and a flaming sword were stationed outside of the entrance to the Garden of Eden, preventing Adam and Eve from reentering (Genesis 3:21-24).

In reading through Genesis chs. 1-3, and with what happened with Adam and Eve after they both ate the forbidden fruit, one can certainly think that all hope was lost. Did not the first two human beings flagrantly oppose God, by disobeying God’s clear instruction? If people have a free will, could this not be taken as an indication that when God’s instruction is known, people will most always break it (cf. Romans 5:13)? To think that all hope was lost would be a bad conclusion to draw, because as God punished the serpent, there is a promise of a seed (Heb. zera) to come who would crush the serpent’s head:

“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).

Elsewhere in Scripture, we see that this Seed is none other than Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), in whom final redemption is found (cf. Galatians 3:16, 19). In fact, given the likely association of the figure of Eve with the false teaching that plagued many women in First Century Ephesus, is it any wonder why Paul would direct Timothy’s attention, saying how women “shall be saved through the child-bearing” (1 Timothy 2:16, YLT)? When the definite article in dia tēs teknogonias is translated, then a definite reference to the Incarnation of Yeshua—the One who is the Child-Bearing—can be detected, referring back to the Genesis 3:15 promise.[5]

Eventually in future history, the curses brought down upon humanity would be nailed to the cross of Yeshua (cf. Colossians 2:14), and the subsequent guilt of sin would be remitted for those who acknowledge and have faith in Him as Savior. Romans 5:12 still reminds each of us, though, how “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin…in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (TNIV). Those who do not receive Yeshua the Messiah into their lives, placing faith in His atoning action for us, still have to reckon with the problems introduced to humanity by the actions committed by Adam and Eve. For, Adam and Eve quantitatively demonstrated a lack of faith in what the Creator had explicitly told them to not do. Lamentably, for all of us as the subsequent offspring of Adam and Eve—an inclination to not place our faith or trust in what the Lord has told us, has been inherited. All people have sinned in Adam.

Cain, Abel, Disbelief, and Fratricide

While life was certainly more difficult outside the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, they had plenty of time to consider their transgression and how their communion with God was disrupted, but not necessarily destroyed. In reading through the first Torah portion, we find that in spite of the disruption that had been introduced, the Lord continued to commune with them. Adam and Eve had to begin to populate Planet Earth, because even though life would be difficult, God had not rescinded His decree that humanity should subdue the world. So, Adam and Eve went about the tasks before them, and among their children, they had two sons named Cain and Abel:

“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.’ Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Genesis 4:1-2).

As these two sons grew up, Cain became a tiller of the soil, while Abel tended to flocks. Both of these sons presented offerings from their hard work to the Lord. We see that Abel’s offering of the first of his flock was accepted by God, but Cain’s offering was disregarded:

“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).

Many Christian readers think that the reason Abel’s offering from the flocks was accepted before the Lord, but Cain’s offering from the fruit of the ground was not accepted, has to do with how a blood sacrifice is necessary to cover sin, and it is obvious that plants cannot do this. Yet as we encounter later in the Torah, various grain and cereal offerings, as well as those of oil and wine, become an important part of the Levitical institution and in the Ancient Israelites demonstrating their thanks to God for His provision. The Lord would not have rejected an offering of plants simply because they were plants.

What might be more notable is how Abel presented “the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4), and Cain only “brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3). This would mean that Abel gave God the finest of his flocks, and Cain may have given God some rather standard or even sub-standard produce.[6] Resultant from the Lord’s rejection of Cain’s offering before Him, Cain got rather angry, and He was warned against the urge of sin that he must see mastered and put down:

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire [teshuqah; urge, NJPS] is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Cain was not able to heed God’s warning to him, and because of this, we see the first recorded murder—a fratricide—in Holy Scripture:

“…And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:7).

While Cain had gone through some of the motions of offering up some of the fruits of his gardening efforts, he had clearly lacked some faith and confidence in the Lord to whom it was offered. On the other hand, when Abel brought a sacrifice from the firstlings of his flock, the Lord looked upon it with favor. Cain’s offering was not the best he could have offered. In the First Century C.E., the author of Hebrews observed how the faith exhibited by Abel to make a sacrifice to God, was considered an act of righteousness—and it was something that had a resonating effect down through the ages:

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

While there is likely to be discussion and debate over the difference of sacrifice offered by both Cain and Abel, the faithlessness of Cain and the faith of Abel were definitely contrasted in the reaction of Cain in murdering his brother. In a new world where their parents Adam and Eve had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, and where there were many unknowns with this family existing as the only human beings—the reasons of Cain for murdering his brother Abel are difficult to fathom. With relatively few people on the planet, it is hard to imagine a brother killing another brother. But such was the wickedness and lack of faith in the heart of Cain, which he succumbed to, as he let sin take control of his actions. While the judgment issued upon Cain was tough to bear (Genesis 4:8-16), the murderous precedent he set, for people murdering other people, has unfortunately not changed.

For those studying the Torah, reflecting on these two brothers—with one possessing faith in God, and another demonstrating extreme faithlessness—is critical for assessing exactly where our hearts are today, when it comes to us demonstrating our trust in the Almighty. What kind of offerings do we present before Him? When we serve the Lord, do we offer Him our very best, or do we cut corners in some way?

The Creator God is intently observing the hearts of people and their actions, as He may accept one offering but disregard another. In contemplating the reality of God evaluating every human heart, perhaps some introspection should arise within us, as we analyze the motivations behind our own offerings to the Lord and how we serve Him? Do our sacrifices come from the heart, or are they simply a rote expression of various traditions that have been passed down for millennia?

This brings to my mind some thoughts expressed by Yeshua the Messiah, when He was admonishing some scribes, while comparing the offerings of wealthy people to the heartfelt gift of a poor widow:

“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:41-44).

Clearly as this example evidences, the Lord God is most concerned with the heart of those who claim to have faith in Him. He sees through the facades of those like Cain, or various wealthy people, who might be simply following ritualistic practices—be they sacrificial offerings or making a contribution out of their excessive resources. Nevertheless, despite the frailties of the human heart as it struggles with faith in the Creator God, we need to recognize that He forgives those who are deceived by the wiles of the Devil, and who turn to Him in repentance!

Enoch and Faith

Continuing through the Torah portion Bereisheet, there is a curious recognition of a later descendant of Adam and Eve, who apparently exhibited such a great amount of faith, that he was literally taken up (Heb. verb laqach) to God without having to endure physical death. This, of course, is the remarkable testimony of Enoch:

“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-24).

Apparently, God was so blessed with the faith of Enoch, that he did not see death. That Enoch was a man pleasing to God, is affirmed by the author of Hebrews:

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP [Genesis 5:24]; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5).

Can you imagine the amount of faith that Enoch must have had? Here was a descendant of Adam, through the line of Seth (Genesis 5:1-24), who multiple generations later exhibited such a profound faith in the Almighty, that He was simply taken to Heaven. Without speculating too much on what this means or what Enoch did, Enoch is to serve as a great inspiration to those of us who look to the Creator God! For assuredly, if God regarded the faith of Enoch so highly, this being taken up would also occur to various other people in later Biblical history. We see something similar take place, in how the Prophet Elijah was ushered into Heaven via a chariot of fire:

“Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ He said, ‘You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.’ As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (2 Kings 2:8-11).

The Prophet Elijah’s faith was lauded by James the Just, as he said,

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months” (James 5:17; cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46; b.Sanhedrin 113a).

Elijah’s righteous faith was the same faith that all Believers in Yeshua are encouraged to maintain. Recall that along with Moses, Elijah appeared at the scene of the Transfiguration, when Yeshua was manifested to Peter, James, and John in all of His glory (Mark 9:4; Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30).

“Torah and Faith”

What does this overview of faith, from the first Torah portion of Bereisheet, mean for us, as we will be examining the Torah cycle again for another year?

  • We must believe in the Word of God, as it has been recorded and preserved down through the ages.
  • We must believe that God in His infinite wisdom created the universe, and that all things operate according to His grand design.
  • We must believe that God created man and woman in His image, but that people do have a free will to respond in faith toward Him, or to respond without faith toward Him.
  • We must believe that through the actions of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the testimony of Enoch—people can choose to either trust in God, or disregard His instruction and endure the consequences.

Thankfully, through the preservation of God’s continuing revelation as witnessed in the balance of the Holy Scriptures, there is confirmation that He has not deviated one iota from His original design for Planet Earth and human civilization. God continues to allow people to be born, with a nature inherited in Adam, permitting each and every one to freely choose whether to walk by faith in Him, or to demonstrate a hollow trust in their own efforts.

The great news for those of us today, who recognize the significance of the redeeming work of Messiah Yeshua—the promised Seed of Adam and Eve destined to bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15)—is that faith in Him and His ultimate sacrifice is sufficient to overcome the curse of the sin nature. Messianic Believers study the Torah, because we know that by better understanding how we will frequently disregard God’s Law, we are all transgressors in need of a Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24). As Paul communicated to the Romans,

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Yeshua the Messiah, abound to the many” (Romans 5:6-15).

Genuine faith in Yeshua’s atoning work restores the intended relationship that the Father desires with each man and woman. Without reservation, let me say that if your faith in the Lord is weak, or if you find yourself relying upon your own good works or mortal abilities to gain favor with God—then you are being deceived by the same crafty serpent that originally deceived Adam and Eve. God requires faith in what He has done via His Son. When we receive the redemption offered in Yeshua, then we can manifest good works as a result of the faith in Him that we possess. As the Apostle Paul communicated to the Believers in Asia Minor,

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Each of us as modern-day Believers in Yeshua must be able to learn from the examples of faith or faithlessness, as we read the Holy Scriptures—beginning with the trials and tribulations of our spiritual forbearers whom we encounter in the Torah. These illustrations have been preserved for us, so that we might incorporate the lessons that they provide us—and we can heed the appropriate warnings where necessary. Paul admonished the Corinthians with the following:

Now these things happened to them as an example [warning, RSV], and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).

Remember that our Eternal God is always faithful to His people: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). While various temptations of this world might be keeping you away from a fervent desire to increase your measure of faith, recognize that by exercising your free will, you can choose to walk by faith—just as multiple examples of faith-filled saints have done down through the centuries. You do not have to fall prey to the lure of the enemy, and can do the right thing when you are tempted. In so doing, the Father will be greatly pleased!

However, it is always up to each one of us to individually exercise and expand our faith, by conscious study and reflection. Each of us must be reminded how, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah” (Romans 10:17). It is my prayer that by hearing, your faith will be expanded in this next Torah cycle. Through such an expanded faith, may our obedience to God’s Word be manifested—in order to fulfill all of the good works that each of us was created to complete! (Click to Site)


NOTES

[1] Heb. b’reisheet bara Elohim et ha’shamayim v’et ha’eretz.

[2] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), pp 398-401; Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:399-401.

[3] Editor’s note: Be aware of how the verb appearing in 1 Timothy 2:13, plassō, can mean “to mould and form by education, training” (H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994], 643), and that various Bibles do properly translate 1 Timothy 2:13 with “formed” (KJV, RSV, NIV, NRSV, ESV, CJB, TLV). If “created” (NASU) were intended in 1 Timothy 2:13, then the verb ktizō could have been used instead.

[4] Heb. teshuqah; cf. Genesis 4:7.

For a review, consult the article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” by J.K. McKee, under the sub-section “Development and Advances of Gender Relations.”

[5] Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha, RSV (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp 1441-1442 note for us how,

“This much debated verse has also been translated (1) ‘she will be saved through the birth of the Child’ [referring to Jesus Christ], or (b) ‘she will be brought safely through childbirth.’”

[6] Cf. Nahum M. Sarna, “Genesis,” in David L. Lieber, ed., Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary(New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2001), 25.

Israel and the Nations: A Theological Opinion, Part 2

israel-and-the-nations-2

Continuing with our series on Israel and the nations, I want to move to our second statement.

Gentile simply means a member of the nations. When a member of the nations comes to faith, he does not become Jewish. He continues to be a member of his or her nation, but has complete access to all the heavenly benefits found in Yeshua.

What is the ecclesia?

I have heard many believers say that now that they believe in Yeshua, they are Jewish. However, I do not think that this is what Scripture teaches. This is the beautiful mystery of the New Testament Ecclesia (often translated church). I don’t like to use the word church for two reasons:

  1. The English translation of the Greek Ecclesia is not church, but assembly. It is simply a mistranslation. (see video on the subject here)
  2. In our modern culture, the word church tends to speak of something completely non-Jewish (with steeples, etc.), while the one new man (Eph. 2:15) is made up of both Jews and the nations.

It is important to note that when Paul uses the term ecclesia, it is not anecclesia, but the ecclesia. Ecclesia was a common word in his culture, but he ‘branded’ it for something specific. For example, in Richmond where I grew up, we have the Coliseum. In Rome, there was the ancient Colosseum. However, the word coliseum simply means “a large theatre or stadium,” from the word ‘colossal.’ Both in Rome and in Richmond, they took a common noun and made it a proper noun. If I have tickets to a concert in Richmond, I say, “I am going to the Coliseum,” not “I am going to a coliseum.”

One New Man

So Paul is saying there is a new thing, called The Assembly or Gathering. And this Gathering is different in so many ways. It is unique in that it is NEW and it is a UNITED assembly of Jews and Gentiles.

In Ephesians 3, Paul uses the word mystery four times to describe God’s marvelous plan for the nations. He says that this revelation, that has now been revealed to God’s holy apostles and prophets, was a secret in times past.

“The mystery is that, through the Gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Messiah, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”  (Eph. 3:6, 8-9)

First, we see that non-Jewish believers become heirs with Israel, not in place of Israel. Second, despite our unique callings, we are one body. Third, Gentiles share in the promise in Messiah—there is equal access to “the boundless riches of Messiah.” (Click to Site)

Naso – Take – “A Prayer of Peace” – 03 June 2017 – 09 Sivan 5777

.

by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Naso or “Take,” has a diverse variety of subjects to contemplate. It begins by completing the instructions about the Levites that concluded Bamidbar(Numbers 1:1-4:20).[1] This census has been conducted to number the three Levite clans that were responsible for the Tabernacle and its transportation. The Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Kohathites have each been given specific duties and tasks.[2]Interestingly, unlike some of the other Israelites who were qualified for military service and numbered from twenty years and older, the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty to the age of fifty (Numbers 4:3). Apparently, the rigorous tasks of handling the Tabernacle required considerable strength, which is something that can be realized when one sees how the term rendered as “service,” tzavah, can also mean “army service” (CHALOT).[3] This does not necessarily mean that the Levitical priests would fight in battle, but the degree of dedication and rigor was certainly no different than being a soldier. Jacob Milgrom observes how Levites who were older than fifty did not necessarily “retire,” but instead acted as mentors, while handling some of the liturgical responsibilities of canting and reciting various psalms:

“A Levite male, in the prime of his life, during the years from 30 to 50, would be given responsibility for the arduous tasks of maintaining the tabernacle (and later the Temple). After age 50, his new tasks would require more wisdom and less physical strength: singing the Psalms, opening and closing the gates, and acting as mentor to younger Levites.”[4]

As each of us advances in age, in our service to the Lord, what new opportunities might He open up for us?

Numbers ch. 5 continues our parashah and explains in detail what is commonly referred to as the “law of jealousy.” Here, specific instructions deal with a ritual that is performed in the event a husband is suspicious of his wife’s fidelity. Numbers ch. 6 describes Nazirite vows, with the specific requirements laid forth that are to be performed by the men and women who seek to dedicate themselves to the Lord in this special ritual. At the end of this chapter, what is commonly known as the “Aaronic Benediction” is recorded (Numbers 6:22-27). Finally, Numbers ch. 7 describes what is dedicated to the Lord by each of the different tribes as the Tabernacle is finished and consecrated. A tremendous statement by Moses that indicates how intimately the Lord communicated with him, concludes this parashah:

“Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him” (Numbers 7:89).

The Power of the Aaronic Benediction

I could spend a great deal of time contemplating the nuances of the Levitical census, the particulars of the “law of jealousy,” a deeper meaning of the Nazirite vow, or even different aspects of the offerings made by the twelve tribes as the Tabernacle is set apart. However, as it so happens, in the past few days a very special event has occurred with my daughter Maggie, which allows me to instead focus on the blessing that Aaron was originally commanded to speak over the people of Ancient Israel.

This past week (2006), in conjunction with our local commemoration of the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot, my fourteen year-old daughter Maggie participated in her bat mitzvah here in Orlando. As a part of her ceremony, she not only delivered a short teaching on the Torah portion, Naso, after reading the first few verses in Hebrew, but she also canted the Aaronic benediction in Hebrew. As you can imagine, this was a very special time for our family.

This event, in many ways, marks a milestone for our family. Maggie will be the first child in her generation to have gone through the formality of becoming a “daughter of the commandments.” For nearly eleven years (since 1995), our family has been faithfully involved in the Messianic movement, as we have grown in our understanding of how the Father truly wants us to conduct our lives. While we have each had baptisms, dedications, and various religious confirmations over the years (which are somewhat close to the tradition of bar/bat mitzvah), this is the first time that someone in our family will have come full circle in our return to the ways of Yeshua and His Jewish Disciples.

Maggie was just three years old when we first began attending a Messianic Jewish congregation. Her testimony, which was a part of her dedication, included her impressions about the very first time she heard a Messianic Jewish rabbi utter the Aaronic blessing over our family in the assembly when she was not even four years old. Over the years, Maggie has become thoroughly “Messianic,” as she now excels in Davidic dance.

Until I read Maggie’s testimony, I never fully realized how she was impacted as a small child by the Aaronic Benediction that was proclaimed over us weekly in our early days in the Messianic community. To me, I am extremely blessed to now know that she was sincerely moved by these proclamations. For her to have this particular Torah portion as her bat mitzvah reading is very special to our family.

In the midst of describing the census of the Levites, the law of jealousy, the Nazirite vows, and the Tabernacle dedication materials offered by the various tribes—there is a pause in the narrative of Naso that inserts this special prayer that was to be uttered by the high priest over Israel. Here is the instruction:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27).

Y’varekh’kha ADONAI v’yishmerekha.

Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekha.

Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.

In this prayer to be declared over the Israelites, the priest is directed to bless his listeners with specific words. He is to invoke the blessings of the Lord, by asking the Lord to bless the people and to reveal Himself to them by His peace. No other blessing can be greater, than the one of being blessed by the Heavenly Father. Human beings cannot seek a superior blessing from anything created by our Creator, although they can surely invoke the Creator’s favor upon others.

“The Lord bless you, and keep you”

In the opening verse of the Aaronic Benediction, the priest issues the word, “The LORD bless you and protect you!” (Numbers 6:24, NJPS). What does it fully mean for God to “keep” His people? The Hebrew verb commonly translated “keep” is shamar, which in the Qal stem (simple action, active voice) means “to keep, watch over,” “to take care of, preserve, protect,” and “to keep > to watch, observe” (HALOT).[5] It appears some 479 times in the Tanakh.[6] In many regards, the Aaronic Benediction asks the Holy One of Israel to vigilantly keep His watch over His people. Psalm 121 comes to mind as we recognize that our Heavenly Father never slumbers or sleeps. In this psalm, the Lord is actually identified as our keeper:

“A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel [shomeir Yisrael]will neither slumber or sleep. The LORD is your keeper [ADONAI shom’rekha]; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 121:1-8).

When you think about it, who else would you rather have as your keeper? Our Heavenly Father is an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God who is constantly aware of everything that is happening throughout His universe. To have Him keep His watch over our every thought and deed is a remarkable reality! Asking Him to be vigilant in this regard is specifically designed to bring about His protection at all times.

“The Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you”

The Aaronic Benediction continues, stating, “The LORD deal kindly and graciously with you!” (Numbers 6:25, NJPS). Much more literally, Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha, is translated with “The LORD make His face shine on you” (NASU). The Hebrew word panim, “face,” is used to direct hearers to note the Lord turning Himself, His attention, and His majesty toward His people.

The Holy One is to turn Himself and His attention toward His people, and in so doing, His favor or grace will be evident to those who He looks upon. Nothing can quite compare to the favor of God! In Numbers 6:25, we see the verb chanan used, related to the noun chenor “favor.” These are actually important root words for a variety of common male and female English names found today, such as John, Johanna, Hanna, Ann, Jane, or Nancy—all of which imply “God is gracious.”[7] It should be obvious that seeking the favor of God is a request that is a vital part of Aaronic Benediction.

“The Lord lift up His countenance on you”

While it might be difficult to detect in some English translations of Numbers 6:26, a version like the NIV is actually more true to the source text in rendering the Hebrew panim a second time as “face”: “the LORD turn his face toward you.” Other versions render panim as “countenance” (RSV, NASU, NRSV, ESV), with the NJPS having “favor.” Does this really matter? Is this not just a stylistic issue?

Looking through my English NASU, I found that the first time that panim was rendered as “countenance” came early in the Book of Genesis, where the text described the differences between Abel and Cain. In this passage, you can detect that panim means much more than just a face:

“Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance [panim] fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance [panim] fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:4-7).

Here, we detect that one’s countenance is more like his or her essential being. Obviously, Cain’s innate personhood was being challenged by God. And so, when the Aaronic Benediction is declared and the Lord’s countenance is to be lifted upon His people, this may be interpreted to mean that His essential character be made manifest. Can you imagine what a blessing it is when people not only have the Father’s attentive looks, but most importantly, allow His countenance to then be reflected in their actions? I cannot perceive of a greater blessing than when the Aaronic Benediction actually results in people exhibiting the very character of the Most High!

“And give you peace”

Finally, as a result of these awesome blessings, the Aaronic Benediction concludes with the word: “and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). The peace of God, of course, is a complete understanding that He is in control of what is transpiring at all times. Shalom is intended to be a sense of total harmony and calmness, in spite of dire circumstances. It is a condition that is impossible to understand apart from the inspiration of trust in Him. Shalom is intended to not just be an absence of war or conflict among people, but a condition of complete balance and tranquility between God, man, and nature.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul was at a loss for words on how to describe the peace of God:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:4-7).

This peace of God is exactly what the Aaronic Benediction declares upon Ancient Israel in our Torah portion. This is a knowing that God is in charge, despite our human inabilities to understand what He is necessarily doing in the circumstances of life. Paul reminded his Philippian friends of how Messiah followers are to be anxious for nothing, but rather plead with the Lord through their prayers and supplication.

Acquiring the Peace of the Lord

For those of you who are in need of a good model for prayer, perhaps memorizing the Aaronic Benediction for times of need might be a good beginning. Don’t leave the Aaronic Benediction to the close of your Shabbat service on Saturday morning! Claim what the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6:22-27 declares forth for yourself. Take great comfort and encouragement from realizing how the Holy Spirit is to fill us up and empower us, interceding for us before the Throne of God:

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

This week, as we consider the Aaronic Benediction, we can first be thankful that we have this wonderful prayer to contemplate and recite—as we cry out to the Lord for His blessings. Additionally, as Believers in the redeeming work of the Messiah Yeshua, we should be able to invoke this meaningful prayer for ourselves, as well as others, as we serve the Lord. Above all, we should always remember that more is to come as we await the return of the Messiah to Planet Earth, and the eventual establishment of His reign of total peace and shalom. What kind of service of worship must we offer to Him in the meantime (cf. Romans 12:1), to hasten the Lord’s coming?

NOTES

[1] Numbers 4:1-3, 34-49.

[2] Numbers 4:1-49; Kohathites: 4:2-20; Gershonites: 4:21-28; Merarites: 4:29-33.

[3] CHALOT, 302.

[4] Jacob Milgrom, “Numbers,” in Etz Hayim, 783.

[5] HALOT, 2:1582-1583.

[6] This figure was determined using a root search of the Hebrew Tanakh (WTT) in BibleWorks 7.0.

[7] Cf. Edwin Yamauchi, “chanan,” in TWOT, 1:302-303.

(Click to Article)

Torah Commentary Vezot ha’Bracha “And this is the blessing” – The Baton Passes On

Torah Commentary
Vezot ha’Bracha “And this is the blessing”
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Joshua 1:1-18
Acts 27-28; Matt 1:1-17
The Baton Passes On

yeshuatheMessiah

Day 11, Month 7, 5775; 13 October 2016 

This Shabbat’s readings mark the end of the Torah cycle. The scriptures we will read are maybe the most bittersweet of all the Torah. Moses finishes his message of Deuteronomy by speaking a blessing over the people he has led for the past forty years. I would imagine that as the words are coming to a close, each one becomes harder to speak than the last. He knows that in a very short time his life will end. Moses has run his race, but has been stopped just short of what he thought his finish line would be. He stands looking into a land he will never enter.

On the surface nothing seems fair. Moses deserves to go in. He made one mistake and it cost him dearly. The Hebrews made many mistakes, but they would soon be enjoying a land they did not deserve. Nothing seems to make sense here. Is there possibly something else to the message of Moses that makes it clearer? Let’s consider it.

When we think of Moses, we think of Torah. In fact, it is called the Torah of Moses. Moses would pass the baton of Torah to a man whose name is Joshua. At least that is his English name. In Hebrew, his name would be very close to the name of Messiah, Yeshua. After the death of Moses, Joshua would receive orders to never allow the Torah of Moses to depart from him. He was to meditate on it day and night. He would also meet a man who was referred to as the Captain of The Army of Yah.   I believe the scripture is very clear through the actions of Joshua that this man was indeed the Messiah, Yeshua. It would be after Joshua’s acceptance of the challenge and revelation of this man that he indeed would enter into the Promised Land with the Hebrews. It would be as he continued in the orders and revelation that he would lead the Hebrews to possess what had been promised to them many years earlier.

So what is the message to us today? Could it be that Yah is telling us that Torah alone will not lead us into the fullness of Yah’s promises? Could it be that simply going through Torah year after year will only bring us to the shore of our own Jordan, but never allow us to cross over? Could it be that we are being told through this account to, with a firm grasp of Torah in our heart, move on? We are to look for a person whose name is similar to the successor of Moses, who will lead us on? A man who not only is the Captain of the army of Yah, but in fact is the embodiment of the Torah?

The message that I see as I look at the complete account is this; Torah alone will not lead us into the fullness of His promises, nor will we ever be allowed to enter in without Torah. It will be as we firmly grasp the Living and the Written Torah, never allowing ourselves to lose focus of the two as one, that we will enter in.

“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!

Click to http://outreachisrael.net/torahscope/2013-2014/02_exodus/06_mishpatim.html

Balak (Destroyer) – “Consistent Blessings” – June 22, 2013

Balak (Destroyer)

Numbers 22:2-25:9
Micah 5:6-6:8

“Consistent Blessings”

Many Bible readers are quite familiar with elements seen in this week’s Torah portion, Balak, even if they do not remember the chapters or verses where they appear. One of the main features seen in Balak is God using an animal to verbally communicate to a human being:

“And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’ Then Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.’ The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?’ And he said, ‘No’” (Numbers 22:28-30).

You may have heard the account of Balaam’s donkey referred to, and someone quite seriously—or half-jokingly—say something like: If God can speak through Balaam’s a**, He can certainly speak through me! Even if you laughed at this, such an expression is certainly true, because many Believers can often recall points in their lives when the Holy Spirit used them in circumstances which in many cases were beyond their mortal comprehension. When they did not know what to say, the presence of the Lord took over, and communicated the proper words.

The focus for most people when they remember this section of Scripture is upon the miraculous incident of the donkey speaking to Balaam. Yet as memorable as it is to think about Baalam’s donkey, too many forget the larger series of events in which this takes place. Baalam was some kind of prophet, who was to be hired by Balak king of Moab, who wanted him to curse the people of Israel (Numbers 22:2-6). However, the Lord would explicitly forbid Baalam from cursing Israel:

“God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed’” (Numbers 22:12).

Baalam is permitted to see Balak, but he is not permitted to speak any words except those that God specifically would give to him:

“But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.’ So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak” (Numbers 22:35).

Balaam will only be permitted to speak the words that are given to him by God Himself (Numbers 22:38). This is a very interesting restriction, because even though Balak hires him (Numbers 22:41), what is spoken forth by Balaam are not curses upon Israel, but rather great blessings. While Balak expects Balaam to issue damning cries and laments upon the Israelites, Balaam instead declares great words of admiration, blessing, and prosperity (Numbers 23:1-30). As you read through the various utterances, one sees that Balaam is a mouthpiece for the God of Israel. Each of his three attempts to curse Israel (Numbers 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:3-9) turn out to be pronouncements of the Lord’s great favor toward them.

Balaam’s First Attempt

The first attempt by Balaam to curse the Israelites comes from atop a hill overlooking the camp of Israel, after seven bulls and rams are offered up on seven altars (Numbers 23:1-6) prepared by Balak and Balaam:

“He took up his discourse and said, ‘From Aram Balak has brought me, Moab’s king from the mountains of the East, “Come curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!” How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? As I see him from the top of the rocks, and I look at him from the hills; behold, a people who dwells apart, and will not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!”’” (Numbers 23:7-10).

This first utterance can be essentially summarized by the statement, “How can I damn whom God has not damned, how doom when the Lord has not doomed?” (NJPS). Balaam has spoken only what the Holy One has instructed him to say, and Balak is horrified. Shocked, he tells Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!” (Numbers 23:11).

Balaam’s Second Attempt

A second attempt is offered from another place, only where Balaam will not be able to see the entire camp of Israel. Again, seven bulls and seven rams are offered up before Balaam can speak (Numbers 23:13-17):

“Then he took up his discourse and said, ‘Arise, O Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor! God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; when He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it. He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; nor has He seen trouble in Israel; the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox. For there is no omen against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel; at the proper time it shall be said to Jacob and to Israel, what God has done! Behold, a people rises like a lioness, and as a lion it lifts itself; it will not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain’” (Numbers 23:18-24).

Once again, Balaam blesses rather than curses the people of Israel. In his declarations, the overriding thought is directed to the attributes of the Creator God. Balaam makes the categorical statement, “God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind” (NRSV). Not only is Balaam respecting Israel’s God in making these statements, but he declares forth how the words He causes him to speak will not be revoked. Unlike human beings, who will often say things that they will later renounce or alter—God’s words about blessing Israel, spoken forth through Balaam, are not things He will renounce or alter. If anything, all Balak can witness is that things are going to be very good for Israel—by extension meaning that things are likely to be very bad for him!

Balak realizes that he has made a mistake in hiring Balaam, telling him to just stop speaking: “Do not curse them at all nor bless them at all!” (Numbers23:25). But it is too late, because Balaam responds and reminds Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the Lord speaks, that I must do’?” (Numbers 23:26). Balaam still has more to say about Israel.

Balaam’s Third Attempt

Balak realizes that Balaam has not finished speaking, so instead he takes him to another place where he can prophecy from, saying, “I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there” (Numbers 23:27). For a third time, seven bulls and seven rams are offered up. This final time, Balaam issues a very special word, moved by the Spirit of God, that would impact not only future generations of Ancient Israel—but even Judaism until this very day:

“He took up his discourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, how fair are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens beside the river, like aloes planted by theLord, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from his buckets, and his seed will be by many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt, He is for him like the horns of the wild ox. He will devour the nations who are his adversaries, and will crush their bones in pieces, and shatter them with his arrows. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, and cursed is everyone who curses you’” (Numbers 24:3-9).

Certainly, one can see a bit of irony in how at the third time Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel—Balaam does exactly the opposite! Balaam can only declare how Israel has been blessed by God in abundance, and how He has been there to defend and guard His chosen people. Balaam was originally contracted to curse Israel, but was supernaturally prevented from doing so. It is easy to see in the Scriptures how devastating this would have been for King Balak. But, consider how even today the Mah Tovu is a traditional prayer that is used in the Jewish liturgy of the morning Shabbat service. These words, originally spoken by a pagan non-Israelite—speaking of the goodness of Israel’s ancient tents and dwellings—remind pious Jews every week of the harmony that should be present in their lives on the Sabbath:


Mah-tovu ohalekha Ya’akov
mishkenotekha Yisrael

How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!(Numbers 24:5, NIV).
This liturgical tradition of today’s Synagogue, whether one is Orthodox or Conservative, intends to instill a connection between God’s goodness and orderliness, and reverence that people are to show Him in the assembly place. The opening prayer when one enters into the sanctuary begins with exclaiming Numbers 24:5, and is then supplemented from various Psalm quotations (NJPS below):
How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! (Numbers 24:5).

But I, through Your abundant love, enter Your house; I bow down in awe at Your holy temple (Psalm 5:8).

O Lord, I love Your temple abode, the dwelling-place of Your glory (Psalm 26:8).

As for me, may my prayer come to You, O Lord, at a favorable moment; O God, in Your abundant faithfulness, answer me with Your sure deliverance (Psalm 69:14).
As you review the verses of the Mah Tovu prayer, perhaps you will discern that there is a thematic connection to be made between Israel being fair or goodly, and what the Prophet Micah declares is required by God of His people (Micah 6:8). Micah simply says that people are to do three things: (1) perform justice, (2) love kindness, and (3) walk humbly before the Lord. Is it possible that within the Jewish liturgical tradition, the Sages simply took Micah’s description of mah-tov (bAJ-hm), “what is good,” and found some important verses from Psalms that would get people to continually remember that God requires much more than simply tents in straight lines? And by extension in more modern synagogues, would it help them demonstrate more than just reverent respect when the rabbi speaks?

When you consider the Mah Tovu verses from Psalms—or better yet, when you search intently into the counsel of Scripture about what doing justice, exhibiting lovingkindness, and walking humbly entails—there is much to inculcate into the mind and soul. This is to be a conformation process, where via the sanctification provided by the Holy Spirit, you can be transformed into the image of the Messiah Yeshua. The Apostle Paul taught, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). While the prophet-for-hire Balaam may have originally declared that Ancient Israel was “goodly,” being good and proper involves far more than just being blessed by God. Being blessed by God requires proper obedience and behavior becoming of Him.

In order to prove, analyze, or examine what the perfect will of God is, His children must have their minds renewed by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. The Spirit should be working in concert with a consistent, almost repetitious study of the Holy Writ. When Balaam type-figures, pagan persons, or irreligious individuals see you today—are the only things they can say about you are that you are blessed by the One you serve?

Balaam’s Words to Balak

After Balaam makes this third, and rather significant blessing upon the Israelites—as he was “contracted” to do—Balak is furious. Balak sends Balaam away, but not without receiving a final prophecy delivered to himself. This prophecy against Moab has a message that will resonate to the end-times:

“Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, ‘I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times! Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the Lord has held you back from honor.’ Balaam said to Balak, ‘Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the Lord, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the Lord speaks, that I will speak”? And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come’” (Numbers 24:10-14).

This prophecy was one that Balak did not bargain for, but by the end of the series of oracles, Balaam had no choice but to utter forth genuine words from God:

“He took up his discourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly. One from Jacob shall have dominion, and will destroy the remnant from the city.’ And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, ‘Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.’ And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, ‘Your dwelling place is enduring, and your nest is set in the cliff. Nevertheless Kain will be consumed; how long will Asshur keep you captive?’ Then he took up his discourse and said, ‘Alas, who can live except God has ordained it? But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim, and they shall afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber; so they also will come to destruction’” (Numbers 24:15-24).

In these the final words delivered by Balaam, generations of Israel could take comfort in knowing that foes like Moab would be defeated. Evil kings like Balak would be humiliated, and God’s chosen nation would stand supreme. But this is not something that Israel itself would be responsible for, as instead someone coming forth from Jacob would accomplish it:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17).

We believe that this reference is to Messiah Yeshua, the King of Israel. It is only by recognizing Him as the vindicator of Israel, that those who would cause harm to God’s chosen nation can be discredited and conquered. But as our Torah portion from this week shows, individuals like Balaam had no choice but to recognize the supremacy of Israel and how God has blessed His people. When that future day comes when Moab, Edom, Amalek, Kain, Asshur, and any other enemies of Israel face a hopeless battle against the Lord—will many from those nations turn in repentance and acknowledge the King of Kings? If Israel does its job as is expected by the Mah Tovu prayer, then surely many will bow their knees in worship to Yeshua as Savior and be counted among the redeemed (cf. Philippians 2:9-11)!

Click to OutReach Israel Ministries

News that is Fit to Read

THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST – David Wilkerson Today – A Ministry of World Challenge

THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST
by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]
lordreturn
Those who submit to Christ’s lordship have an increase of strength and
knowledge of Him. They literally gain a new mental and physical strength. They
do not faint along the way because Jesus pours His own strength into them as
they go.

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for
you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in
all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord
unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the
knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power,
unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:9-11).

God will keep those who submit to His lordship blameless to the day of Christ’s
coming. If we submit to Jesus—doing as He commands, not leaning on our own
understanding—we will never lack anything. He will supply everything we need
to please Him. The Lord Himself will hold and keep us blameless to the very
end!

“That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all
knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye
come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who
shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our
Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship
of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Corinthians 1:5-9).

We are to entrust our lives into Jesus’ care. It then becomes His
responsibility to hold and keep us: “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish
you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He says, “If you keep Me
enthroned on your heart, I’ll keep you blameless until My coming. I’ll keep you
from falling!” “Commit the keeping of [your] souls to him in well-doing, as unto
a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

Click to article

 

Drug & Alcohol Support Groups with a New & Positive Twist!

Attack On Cairo Cathedral A Message To Egypt Christians: “Leave or Die”

minkteencopticfunerall

Six Egyptians have been killed and almost 100 injured over the last four days in sectarian violence of a kind that activists and analysts tell The Tower is unprecedented in modern Egypt.

Four Christians and a Muslim were killed in sectarian clashes in a Cairo suburb on Saturday. A Muslim mob subsequently attacked the Sunday funeral procession held for the four at Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox cathedral, leading to another death and scores of injuries. Mourners who took cover in the cathedral compound were attacked with rocks and Molotov cocktails. Sectarian tension has continued into Monday in the Egyptian capital and its surrounding areas.

Egypt’s 10-percent Christian minority has historically been subject to religious and economic discrimination. The situation has worsened since the 2011 ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his replacement by the Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of Mohammed Morsi, and there has been a massive Christian exodus from the country.

But Mina Rizkalla, a U.S.-based Coptic activist, told The Tower that the weekend’s violence was a severe escalation.

“Since the establishment of modern Egypt we have never seen attacks against Copts reach the Coptic Cathedral, where the Coptic Pope lives, and which Copts view as their safest and holiest place. The scenes of tear gas and shooting in the cathedral… [can’t be] removed,” he said.

Rizkalla said that attacking the cathedral sent a “clear” message to Egypt’s Coptic community: “Leave or die.”

Egyptian media continues to describe the attackers as “unknown assailants.” Egypt’s Interior Ministry blamed the mourners for the violence and said the riot police intervened to stop it. That account is in tension with eyewitness accounts, which depict Muslim attacks in response to Coptic anti-government chants:

Clashes erupted immediately after the service between the emerging mourners and a crowd outside the cathedral. It was unclear who started the violence. But later dozens of riot police with armored vehicles and tear-gas canons appeared to enter the fray on the side of crowds of young Muslim men who were throwing rocks and fire bombs at the mourners.

In what seemed like a siege of the cathedral, tear-gas canisters fell inside the walls of its compound, sending gas into the sanctuary and two nuns running for shelter in a nearby loading dock. Later, some of the young civilians who had been attacking the cathedral switched to taunts, making lewd gestures involving the sign of the cross. The riot policemen made no attempt to stop them, either from throwing rocks toward the cathedral or insulting the Christians.

The role played by Egyptian police has come in for particularly withering criticism:

But Remon Wageh, a church worker, blamed what he called radical Muslims for the violence. “The minute the Christians loaded the coffins into cars after the service, a group of bearded radicals threw rocks at us,” he said. “The police just stood by watching, doing nothing,” he said. “They protected the radicals who were hiding behind a line of officers in the street outside the cathedral.” Police officers were not available to comment on the accusation. The interior minister later went to the scene at Mursi’s request to investigate but did not speak to the media.

Click to article

 

Change Lives, become a Drug & Alcohol Support Group Facilitator & Life Coach