English Bible Versions and Today’s Messianic Movement

isaiah-55-10_11-nkjv

What English Bible version should you use as a contemporary Believer? This is a topic that can not only be rather confusing, but is something that can also evoke some rather strong emotions. Very few English Bible readers, who are committed to a steadfast faith in God, ever stick with one single Bible version or translation to employ in their studies. At the same time, though, it might also be said that various Bible readers can get a bit too comfortable examining a particular version, because they just get too familiar with it, or they are too stuck reading a particular Bible with their personal notes in it, or they get too acclimated to a particular version for some other sentimental reason.

Given both the changing dynamics and components of modern English speech, as well as the immense publishing venue of English Bible translation, we cannot hope to probe all of the pros and cons of various contemporary English versions. We can, though, have a much better idea about the kind of English versions we should be employing, and most especially what to do when we encounter various verses or passages of importance.

Today’s Messianic people are widely astute and aware of how each English Bible version, whether it be Jewish or Christian, is going to have some kind of translation bias to it. Jewish versions of the Tanach in English are not likely to translate various Messianic passages in support of the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, whereas Christian versions will. Various Christian versions of the Apostolic Scriptures, or New Testament, will not typically translate various passages about the Torah or Law of Moses in favor of its continued validity in the post-resurrection era. Yet, both Jewish and Christian Bible versions are used and employed by the broad Messianic movement. And, the Messianic movement itself has produced several Bible versions of its own which are employed within its ranks. Today’s Messianic versions tend to widely uphold the Messiahship of Yeshua and the validity of the Torah, but may have other limitations.

This article will attempt to explore some of the key details which today’s Messianic people need to be aware of when they encounter various English Bible versions. We will be reviewing some of the contemporary Jewish and Christian versions which are used in sectors of the Messianic movement. Also important will be a review of some Messianic Bible versions, particularly of the Apostolic Scriptures, which tend to be encountered. (Click to Source)

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Torah Commentary – Ki Tetze -“When you go”

Jesus scriptures temple2

Torah Commentary
Ki Tetze “When you go”
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-10
2 Kings 10-12

A Single Focus of Life

The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ summary to the people before his death.  Each thought, instruction, and word can be traced back to previous books of Torah.  This week is no exception.

In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people to make four twisted cords which are to be placed on the corners of their garments.  This of course is a reference to Numbers 15:38-41.  The four blue cords, or fringes, are to remind them of the Torah, its instructions, and Who gave them those instructions.  The blue cords are very similar to a modern wedding ring.  The ring does not make you married; it makes a statement that you ARE married! (Click to Article)

Tazria (She Conceives) – “What Did Yeshua Do?”

Tazria (She Conceives)

Leviticus 12:1-13:59
2 Kings 4:42-5:19

“What Did Yeshua Do?”

leperYeshua

One of the many blessings that today’s Messianic Believers receive in committing themselves to a consistent, weekly examination of the Torah portion, is the much fuller perspective that they naturally receive of the Scriptures. Too frequently, people who read the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, when reading references about the Mosaic Law, have very little idea about what is being talked about. This week as we encounter Tazria, “She Conceives,” we actually see some interesting commandments that directly relate to the birth of Yeshua and how Joseph and Mary were obedient to the Torah. Our parashah begins by saying,

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: “When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed”’” (Leviticus 12:1-4).

In many years Tazria is coupled with the following parashah, Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33), as both of these selections continue to focus on Leviticus’ theme of holiness. In this section of the Pentateuch, we see various regulations regarding what it means for something to be “clean” (Heb. tahor, rAhj), rather than “unclean” (Heb. tamei, amj). Our previous parashah, Shemini, actually ended with God delivering instructions on clean and unclean meats, and how following them would contribute to His people being holy:

“‘For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten” (Leviticus 11:45-47).

Now that the Lord has laid out the restrictions on what is to be considered edible food, some further instruction is given regarding cleanliness and uncleanliness. The two specific sets of commandments given in Tazria regard the blood of childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-8) and the handling of leprosy (Leviticus 13:1-59).

Proper Parental Influence

While reflecting on Tazria, and how little I knew about postnatal care or the intricacies of various skin afflictions, the most dominant thoughts that came to mind were recollections from the Apostolic Scriptures on the birth of Yeshua and what His parents did. Joseph and Mary followed the Torah’s commandments with what were to be done with a newborn child. Examining Luke’s record of what took place after Yeshua was born, we see that Joseph and Mary followed the instructions we see in this Torah portion, having brought the infant Messiah to the Temple in Jerusalem for dedication:

And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’ [Exodus 13:2, 12, 15]), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’ [Leviticus 12:8]” (Luke 2:21-24).

In this account, we note that Joseph and Mary were obeying the instructions regarding the circumcision of a male child, and his dedication before the Lord. Luke makes some direct quotations from the Torah, detailing the commandments that Joseph and Mary were following:

Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me…you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord” (Exodus 13:2, 12).

“But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean” (Leviticus 12:8).

We can discern that Joseph and Mary were relatively humble in their means, because of the reference to the turtledoves and/or pigeons that were made. But, they did follow the Law of Moses, and they raised Yeshua—as well as their sons James and Jude—in a Torah-keeping environment. Luke later summarizes the kind of home in which Yeshua was reared, noting how they went to Jerusalem on a regular basis to keep the appointed times:

“When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast” (Luke 2:39-42).

Yeshua’s Torah Obedience

As you read through Tazria, you are given a very detailed account of instruction regarding how to deal with the disease commonly referred to as leprosy (Heb. tzara’at, t[rc), although other forms of skin eruptions are also described. As I read these passages, my mind flashed forward to scenes where Yeshua healed lepers during His ministry. The ability to heal a leper would have been a sign that the Messiah had come:

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Messiah, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matthew 11:2-6; cf. Isaiah 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).

As Yeshua healed lepers of their illness, He instructed them to follow the Torah’s instruction—specifically so that those healed could testify of their cleansing:

“And a leper came to Yeshua, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Mark 1:40-44).

“And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Matthew 8:2-4).

Yeshua knew the instructions that had been given in Tazria. Even though He knew that lepers had been completely healed of the debilitating disease, He upheld the Torah’s instruction so that the priests might inspect the cleansing:

“If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean” (Leviticus 13:37).

As we read and reflect upon Tazria, we can be reminded that Yeshua, as well as His parents, followed the commandments in the selection that we are reviewing this week. It does not appear from these testimonies that Yeshua attempted to annul the importance of these commandments because of His ministry—even though the lepers who were healed would no doubt speak to the priests of the One who healed them!

WWJD?

Many of us in the community of faith are aware of the popular acronym WWJD that has been fashioned into bracelets, t-shirts, and a variety of other commercially viable forms for sale in the evangelical world. I do not at all want to belittle those who have used the simple admonition What Would Jesus Do? I am convinced that many people have been prompted to do many positive things from the WWJD acronym. It has been an easy way to promote holiness among many Christians, who need a visible reminder of the Lord we serve.

As Messianic Believers, though, our engagement level with who the Messiah is and how He lived—goes a little beyond the simple commands to love God and neighbor, as important as those are (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). This week, many of us are taking a look at Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59), a selection of text which for most people might seem pretty dry and boring, detailing things that are really not that applicable in the Twenty-First Century. Yet, in studying this part of Scripture, we can learn more of the details of how Joseph and Mary, and how the Messiah Himself, lived their lives in the First Century.

If I did not take the time to read and study passages like this from the Book of Leviticus, I might not know how God is concerned about mothers who give birth to children, or those who are afflicted with leprosy. I would not have any idea what the commandments were that Yeshua directed healed lepers to follow, as they would go and testify to the priests at the Temple of the Messiah who had healed them. By not reading Tazria, I might not know of the simple fact of how our Heavenly Father is concerned about our hygiene, and how He surely does not want us to contract diseases like leprosy.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua the Messiah was clear that He did not come to abolish, but to fulfill, the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17-18). He also stated how “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). The commandments we read about this week in Tazria can largely not be followed today, because of the lack of a Temple in Jerusalem—but most importantly because of the fact that leprosy is not as rampant as it once was in past centuries (for which we should all praise God!). But not following largely inapplicable commandments is different than teaching against them, and how they instruct us as God’s people. By reading Tazria this week, I am sure that we have all learned some things about the character of our Heavenly Father that we have not known, or at least thought about, before.

Yeshua the Messiah came to fulfill the Torah of Moses, meaning that He came to show people how to live it properly. As Believers in Him, we can actually learn things about His life and His ministry in the Gospels by studying the Torah. Obscure parts like healed lepers going to the Temple, actually make much more sense.

Unfortunately, many Christians (but thankfully not all!) who wear the WWJD bracelets conclude that Yeshua “fulfilled and thus abolished” the Torah of Moses. From this vantage point, what we are considering in Tazria this week has largely nothing to do with Yeshua’s birth or with His ministry. As it is often said, “We as New Testament Believers do not have to be concerned with any of restrictions on our lives, imposed by adherence to an antiquated list of do and don’ts.” How far from the truth is this? The New Covenant actually involves God supernaturally writing the Torah’s instructions onto our heart for our remembrance (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). A view of holiness, emulating the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, that excludes any kind of obedience to the Law, has done considerable harm to the Body of Messiah. Simply look at all of the people who claim to be following the Messiah, but have very little concept of Biblical ethics or morality. To them, WWJD is just a cloth bracelet, but not really a committed lifestyle.

I am not trying to unfairly criticize those who are unaware about some of the finer details of the Torah as seen in readings like Tazria. There are plenty of things in the Torah that today’s evangelical Christians and Messianics all agree need to be followed. The high standard that Yeshua gives us in His Sermon on the Mount—a teaching firmly rooted within Moses’ Teaching—is a place where we can come together with Christians, and learn what it means to fulfill the Law. When we get to areas like Shabbat, the appointed times, or kosher as detailed last week—how can we approach these areas in a constructive, investigative spirit? How can today’s Messianics demonstrate that emulating the Messiah Yeshua means not only treating others with love, but also deriving the blessings that other parts of the Torah will undeniably bring to one’s life?

Today’s Messianic Believers need to learn to demonstrate, as Yeshua instructed, a proper Torah obedience by good works (Matthew 5:16; cf. Ephesians 2:10). When evangelical Christians who wear that What Would Jesus Do? bracelet witness our actions of faith, will they be able to really see some of the things that Yeshua did? What about Jewish people who need to know the salvation available in the Messiah Yeshua, and inquire of our good deeds? I certainly hope and pray that we can see a generation of Messianic Believers come forth who can provide answers to the question What Did Yeshua Do? in a manner that brings honor and glory to Him.

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Torah Commentary – Bo “Come” – Words Are Not Enough – January 18, 2013

Torah Commentary

Bo “Come”

Exodus 10:1-13:16

Jeremiah 46:13-28

John 19:13-37

Acts 13:16-17

Revelation 8:6-9:12; 16:1-21

Words Are Not Enough

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Pharaoh is a very interesting character in scripture. He is the epitome of how callous and hardhearted man can be.

For years I have heard many people say, “If only God would do a miracle in my family, if He would do something they could really see was from Him, then they would believe.” Is this a true statement? Furthermore, is “belief” true redemption?

Let’s look for a moment at the “confessions of faith” that Pharaoh made. In Exodus 9:27 he admits he has sinned. He states that Adonai is truly superior to him. He confesses that he has been wrong and even asks Moses to pray for him. In Exodus 10:16 he again confesses he has sinned against God and this time goes a step further, confesses that he has sinned against Moses, and again asks for prayer.

According to the way most of us have been taught through the years about “being saved,” Pharaoh is a good candidate to have come to the front, fill out a card, say a three-line prayer and go out the side door with, “Someone will call you and give you more information.” Within moments his name would be posted on the board of those “saved” in this church and his name sent off to denominational headquarters. Pharaoh would of course be asked to attend the “New Believers” class where he would be taught how to blend into and submit to the system of the congregation. No doubt due to his wealth he would be taught very quickly about the place of “The Law” in his life. He would be taught that the “Law” was done away with, except for tithing! Because of his position of power in his community and his ability to lead a whole country, he would no doubt be placed on a fast track to a position of Deacon, Elder or whatever other leadership position the congregation had. All on this would happen without a true change of heart, lifestyle or eternal destination. Pharaoh would just be another statistic on someone’s earthly record book, but would not make the book that truly counts, the Book of Life.

Before we go on, please do not think the above paragraph was written to be humorous, as a satire or to make fun of any church or denomination. Read it again, I think you will find a sobering and grievous amount of truth.

Truth is, miracles do not change people’s hearts. Think about how many miracles were done in Egypt. Did they change Pharaoh’s heart? How many miracles were done at the hands of the prophets? Did they change people’s hearts? How many miracles did Yeshua or His disciples do? Did they change people’s hearts? The answer to these questions is no. Miracles do not change hearts; miracles simply show forth the glory, power and majesty of the One True God. The miracle is to bring a person face to face with His glory, in a way forcing a decision to be made. Read Mark 5:1-15 and see the response of the people in verse 16 for an example of this. Hearts change when people make a decision to repent from their attempts to be God. People change when a confession is backed up with true repentance, which leads to submission to HaShem and to His word.

So what truly is redemption? Is it not a confession of faith, a request for forgiveness and a request for others to join around them in prayer? Yes, true redemption does contain these things, but without the fourth ingredient Yaakov (James) would say in his book that faith without actions is dead.

Pharaoh had all the right words, but in the end he did not have the actions to back up those words. I fear too many people today who have “come to Jesus” in churches, special meetings, crusades and the like may have only been given half the truth and are no better off eternally than Pharaoh was. You may say, “Mike, that is for God to straighten out.” That may be true, but are you willing to continue to tell people only half the truth of the gospel and just hope and pray it all works out, or would it be better to tell them the whole truth up front? In the end you may not have as many notches on your spiritual gun belt now, but the ones who have responded know the truth, the truth that can set them free.

So what is truth? All that HaShem said. All that Moses and the prophets taught. And all that Yeshua taught. How much simpler can it be than this? In the end, truth is the fact of One God who does not change, One Book that does not lie and One Family that in the end will stand as a testimony to this eternal truth.

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Bo (Go) – “A Perpetual Feast Forever” – January 18, 2013

Bo (Go)

Exodus 10:1-13:16
Jeremiah 46:13-28

” A Perpetual Feast Forever”

fulfilled_lawThis week’s Torah portion, Bo, very much summarizes the major theme of the Book of Exodus. We witness not only the final plagues dispensed upon Egypt (Exodus 10:1-11:10), but we see the institution of the Passover as a memorial meal (Exodus 12:1-32, 42-51) to be remembered by the future generations of God’s chosen people:

“For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance” (Exodus 12:12-14).

In Bo, the final three judgments upon Egypt are executed (locusts, darkness, firstborn), and the people of Israel are finally released to begin their journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 12:33-41). This reading gives us the first regulations about the Spring festivals of the Lord, and how His people are to commemorate the salvific events they memorialize.

Each year when Bo is considered, the reference to Passover being a “permanent ordinance” or “eternal decree” (ATS), chuquat olam (~lA[ tQx), always creates some interesting recollections that you might be able to identify with. For years, prior to becoming Messianic, every time I read this text I paused and thought about the words “you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”

Reading Recollections

In the past, while reading through these passages, I remember going back and rereading what is stated about Passover two or three times, and thinking about what the text actually meant. After all, the words “you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever” (Exodus 12:14, RSV) are fairly easy and direct to understand. The problem I had was not in understanding the plain English text. Rather, the problem was in heeding the words spoken. I was confused because the commandment to remember the Passover was very clear—and Passover is by no means some obscure ritual to memorialize. Like many who have been confronted by the simple text, I first turned to my teachers for an explanation. Of course, that is where my problems were compounded.

Many years ago in the 1980s, I was at the mercy of dispensational Christian pastors and Bible teachers, who were largely repeating what they had been taught at Bible college or seminary (in this case, Dallas Theological Seminary). Because of their dispensational presuppositions—reading some parts of the Bible as only applying to Israel, and other parts as only applying to “the Church”—the command to celebrate Passover was not something that apparently applied to me. My dispensational teachers told me that Passover was something that the Jewish people did, but it was not something that Christians today were required to do, because there was a much more meaningful observance that I could participate in called Easter. To a relatively young and naïve Believer, their argument was very persuasive. As I recall, the logic went something like this:

Remember that Jesus was our Passover Lamb. He came and was sacrificed for us. Should we not be thankful for His ultimate sacrifice and come together on the day which celebrates the resurrection of Christ?

Of course, this justification for remembering Easter instead of Passover made good sense. Further questions I asked elicited more reasons to go along with this practice, as I was also told by my dispensational teachers:

You need to understand that this has been going on for centuries, and certainly the ecclesiastical authorities who instituted these events knew what they were doing. The Jews will continue to do the Passover and the Christians will continue to do Easter. Just celebrate Easter and do not worry about what the Jews are doing. We live in the Church Age!

Even though this sounded like a good argument at the time, regardless of the explanation I heard, inevitably, whenever I read these verses in Exodus, the same nagging question arose in my spirit: What does the Scripture mean when it says “forever” or “eternal”?

Maturing Messianic

Sometimes, it is funny how you remember certain things in the past that prompted you to dig more into the Word of God for greater explanation. For example, the word “forever” (Heb. olam, ~lA[) seems to really stand out (BDB, pp 761-763; CHALOT, pp 267-268; HALOT, 1:798-799). As I was maturing in my study and pursuit of the truth, the Lord chose to reveal more about Himself. As a seeker, I was definitely finding Him by consistently and honestly asking Him—just as Jeremiah promises:

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

James the Just’s admonition, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5), was also something that I prayed. I did not want to find some kind of forgotten truth in the Bible, but then misuse it in the sight of those who were not ready to hear, and were not necessarily convicted by the Holy Spirit at the time the same way I was. As one who believed, and still believes, in the sovereignty of God—there is a pre-determined time for people to come to a fuller knowledge of Him.

At another reading of verses like Exodus 12:14—something dramatic occurred. One night while reading this passage, the concept of “forever” repeated itself over and over again in my spirit. All of a sudden, another thought came immediately to mind:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, he was referring to the Scriptures as they knew them in the First Century, the Hebrew Tanakh (Genesis-2 Chronicles [or Malachi]). Paul told the Romans a similar thing regarding the Scriptures:

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

I by no means thought that the writings of the Apostles were not Scripture, but I did think that perhaps too many Christians I knew were forgetting what else composed Scripture. Why did too many people just overlook God’s revelation in the Old Testament, when the Apostles themselves did not? While thinking through Exodus 12:14 on Passover one year, a radical thought came to my mind:

Is it possible that the very concept of obeying this commandment “forever” was something that would be profitable for teaching and training in righteousness? Why would many people overlook the Passover, and what it teaches us about the sacrifice of Jesus?

Oftentimes when you have these types of internal debates, you are actually being instructed by the Holy Spirit. Remember that according to Yeshua, it is the Holy Spirit who has been sent to teach His followers all things:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

This train of thought was really stretching me away from some of the dispensational doctrines that I was being taught. When I considered this those many years ago, without any significant change with regard to the word “forever,” I simply pondered these thoughts in my heart, waiting for further instruction. At the time, I was not quite ready for the transition to a Messianic lifestyle, nor would I have been led to pursue the issue further. However, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it is clear now that I was definitely being set up for the next stage in my walk. In the 1980s I was thinking about things that would significantly aid me during my spiritual pursuits of the 1990s.

The Seder Experience

In the early 1990s, just like what has happened to thousands of other evangelical Christians in recent years, I was asked to attend a sedar (rds) meal to remember the Passover. Because of a tour to Israel my wife Margaret and I had been on in 1994, we were very open to the Jewish Roots of our faith, and in considering the role of the appointed times for more than just “enrichment.” This sedar was being held at the Messianic Jewish congregation which we had started attending. For the first time in my life, I was going to keep the commandment to remember the deliverance from Egypt in a very tangible way!

The very Torah portion that we are looking at this week, Bo, was being discussed in the context of a Passover remembrance. The whole sedar experience was something to behold. As the leader of the sedar went through a written presentation or haggadah, the details of the deliverance from Egypt were thoroughly discussed. Of course, the parallels between the blood of the lamb and the Messiah Yeshua, being the ultimate blood sacrifice, were mentioned in great detail. Even the (later) Jewish traditions regarding the unleavened bread or matzah (hCm), and how it was to be handled, all seemed to point to the work of the Messiah at Golgotha (Calvary).

Throughout the evening I thought about the commandment to remember the Passover forever. I considered the history of the Jewish people and how they had faithfully honored this commandment for millennia. It was apparent that this, and other remembrances of the appointed times, had kept them a unified and a separated people. And now here I was, a non-Jew participating in the very same celebration that was given not necessarily to just the Jewish people, but to all who serve the God of Israel.

Some of my questions from decades earlier started to resurface in my thoughts. Now, however, I was in a Messianic environment that would discuss some of the historical realities of why centuries of Christians had largely overlooked the Passover. I was finally exposed to some of the decisions made by ecclesiastical councils from the Fourth and Fifth Centuries, which forbade the Christian Church from observing the appointed times. This information, coupled with other data from my Torah studies that was being regularly assimilated, significantly altered the lifestyle of myself and my family.

As a family, we now consider it a great honor and important responsibility to remember the Passover—just as these passages remind us. We believe that we are some of the “generations” that this commandment was directed to. Of course, as we have discovered via experience, you do not get to the point where you believe that remembering the Passover is really for you until you have moved toward a Messianic lifestyle that seeks to consciously follow the Torah and its commandments. Furthermore, making the transition from a neutered Easter celebration to a full-fledged Passover remembrance is not always easy. Should you make this transition, there is a definite need to extend the Lord’s love and grace to others who do not share your conviction. Rather than look at yourselves as being spiritually superior, invite your evangelical Christian family and friends to your Passover table. Allow them to experience the goodness of Passover the same way that you have!

Who do you serve?

How might you figure into all of this? Have you ever really celebrated Passover? If you have, do you remember your first time at a Passover sedar? Did you sense that you were obeying one of God commands, for all of His people for all time? Did you sense the Lord’s presence at this sedar meal, and learn important things about your salvation in Messiah Yeshua? Do you think it would be beneficial for Believers today to remember the Passover, and for all of us to learn how we are beneficiaries of Ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egypt?

By keeping Passover you will certainly be establishing a good example of obedience. You could also use this celebration as a backdrop for additional instruction about how God has miraculously acted throughout history, and how there will be a future deliverance of His people in the end-times. We live in interesting days when our firmly held beliefs and convictions in Him will be challenged by the world. We need to be convinced about who we are serving. By honoring and following His Instruction, we send clear signals that we are worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and not someone or something else.

The Joshua generation that was allowed to enter into the Promised Land faced some of the same challenges that we face today. They had the words of Moses to contend with, as well as fresh memories of their parents and grandparents who were denied entrance into Canaan because they did not believe and obey the Lord. At the end of Joshua’s life, he reminded the people of Israel about all the things that God had done for them over the centuries:

“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).

For us today, these same words need to be considered. Will we serve the Holy One of Israel with diligence—correcting previous mistakes of the past—or will we continue to be denied the blessings of remembering Passover? Hopefully, our answer will echo Joshua’s admonition to Ancient Israel to serve the Lord. Today, we can visibly display our allegiance to the Lord by continuing to make the Passover celebration a perpetual feast forever! We can see people enriched in their faith, and understand all of the great lessons that the Passover and Exodus teach us.

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V’eira (I appeared) – “Proclaim His Power and Might”

V’eira (I appeared)

Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

“Proclaim His Power and Might”

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Our Torah portion for this week begins with us seeing the Lord summarize His covenant faithfulness with His people, as He prepares to act in delivering them from Egypt:

“God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant’” (Exodus 6:2-5).

Throughout V’eira we see God reign down various judgments upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-9:35). Even though Moses and Aaron constantly return to Pharaoh with the Divine plea, “Let My people go” (Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20f; 9:1, 13), his heart continues to be hardened (Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34-35). Reading through our parashah, it seems that God’s two spokespersons are actually losing ground in their role as His agents to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians. If you will remember, as the previous Torah portion, Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1), came to a close, Moses himself was perplexed about this dilemma. The people of Israel were in worse shape than when the requests to Pharaoh began. The complaints and criticism were bearing down on Moses and Aaron:

“Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all’” (Exodus 5:22-23).

Moses was frustrated. He knew he had been called to this assignment, yet every verbal attempt to get the people released ended in greater harm for Israel. Then, God responds with a strong word that establishes the tone for the rest of what we will see during Moses’ and Aaron’s encounters with Pharaoh. The Lord makes the following statement that closes Shemot, and opens V’eira, definitively declaring what He was about to do:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.’ God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord”’” (Exodus 6:1-8).

Here in these words, the Lord establishes just who He is and just what He is about to do with Moses and Aaron, with Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and with the Ancient Israelites. Remember how the Almighty has established a unilateral covenant with His chosen people. It is the Lord who swore the inheritance of the Promised Land to them multiple times (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; 17:4; 26:3; 28:4), and yet for some reason or another, they still do not believe that the deliverance is coming:

“So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:9).

The people of Israel continue to groan, and we recall from last week that God hears their cries and groans, remembering His covenant:

“Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 2:23-24).

As the groaning increased with the loss of straw for the Israelites to make bricks, the Lord implements His plan for their deliverance. But as we read, this deliverance is not immediately enacted. Instead, we are told about eight different signs and judgments that are designed to judge the various gods of Egypt, and communicate to Egypt and to Israel His might and power. The Lord will be displaying, for the sake of Egypt and Israel, that He and He alone is the One True God who possesses absolute sovereignty.

In a series of dramatic encounters, Moses and Aaron begin to beseech Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave. The first sign is Aaron throwing his staff on the ground where it becomes a snake. Shortly thereafter, the Egyptian magicians do the same thing with their staffs, but soon discover Aaron’s staff/snake swallowing their staffs/snakes (Exodus 7:8-13). Next, Aaron touches his staff to the Nile River and the water turns to blood. Then, the magicians again match the miracle and turn water into blood (Exodus 7:14-25). Third, Aaron waves his staff over the Nile River and a plague of frogs come up and cover the land. Interestingly, the Egyptian magicians are again able to duplicate the feat (Exodus 8:1-15). Each time as another sign takes place, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. Finally, Aaron touches his staff to the ground, and some kind of gnats or lice invade Egypt:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.”’ They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said” (Exodus 8:16-19).

The magicians of Egypt could no longer counterfeit the signs and judgments. They clearly proclaimed that what they saw with the gnats was obviously the “finger of God.” A comparison could be made that just like God had taken the dust of the ground to form Adam (Genesis 2:7), He now took dust and He brought forth these gnats. This inconvenience was spreading over all the land of Egypt, but in short order the Holy One was going to separate His people from the judgments to come:

“Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of insects on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of insects, and also the ground on which they dwell. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur”’” (Exodus 8:20-23).

Moses and Aaron continue delivering the plagues on God’s behalf, but now as swarms of insects came over Egypt, the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were living, was not affected (Exodus 8:24). And yet, even after this plague subsides, the heart of Pharaoh was still hardened (Exodus 8:25-32).

Next, the distinctions between the Egyptians and Israel become more evident. The livestock of Egypt is separated out for death. But the Lord decides to preserve the livestock belonging to Israel (Exodus 9:1-7). The plague of sores or boils comes upon the Egyptians, and the Israelites are spared, and again the heart of Pharaoh is hardened (Exodus 9:8-17). We then get a peek into what God is actually doing to Pharaoh and Egypt, as these signs and judgments are being executed:

“But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).

The Lord uses these events so that His power and greatness will be proclaimed throughout the whole world. Little did the Ancient Israelites know how true this would be, as we still remember the Exodus and its awesomeness today! The Exodus is one of the most important controlling narratives for how people read the message of the Bible, redemption in Messiah Yeshua, and how God always has worldwide intentions when He performs significant acts of salvation history.

Finally, as our reading for this week comes to a close, the Egyptian people begin to get the message that the God of Moses and Aaron is not playing games. They are warned about a devastating hailstorm that is about to come (Exodus 9:18-35), and some of the Egyptians take heed to protect themselves and their livestock from certain death:

“‘Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.’ The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; but he who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field” (Exodus 9:19-21).

You would think that Pharaoh—the leader of Egypt—would be getting the message that the Lord means business, but instead he continues to harden his heart against Him (Exodus 9:35). Again, we see God making a distinction between His people and the Egyptians:

“Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail” (Exodus 9:26).

Our Torah portion ends with this sad testimony:

“But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses” (Exodus 9:34-35).

We too often have to read about the sad story of individuals like Pharaoh—because even when seeing the physical results of Divine judgment, they are incapable of changing their hearts and crying out for help. They often willingly choose the judgment of God, in order to appear humanly strong, rather than cry out to Him for mercy.

Some reading this may have a problem with what appears to be a hardening of the heart by the Almighty Himself. Keep in mind that Pharaoh was the leader of Egypt, one who believed himself to be a god, and one who was presumably perfect. Because of these things going against him, he may have not even had a chance at redemption. As the Apostle Paul comments, we discover that God, who is full of mercy and compassion, actually raised up Pharaoh so that His fame and power could be demonstrated and proclaimed around the world:

“What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’ [Exodus 33:19]. So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth’ [Exodus 9:16]. So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Romans 9:14-18).

Paul reminded the mixed group of Believers in Rome of the example of the Egyptian Pharaoh, in describing the justice of God. Now, for those of us today who read these words and consider them for our spiritual edification, what can they possibly mean to us, over three millennia removed from the Exodus, and almost two millennia from Paul writing the Romans?

Do we really take seriously the fact that the Lord uses various trials and tribulations to declare His name and His power throughout the Earth? When we read about the events that had to occur for Ancient Israel to be delivered, do we at all praise Him for it? If we have faith in His past actions on behalf of His people, we can be confident that the Lord will be with us through whatever we face today. To Him be the glory and the power and the honor forever and ever!

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Torah Commentary – Va’era “And I appeared” – Shadows of Yesterday, Substance of Today

Torah Commentary


Va’era “And I appeared”
Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Romans 9:14-17
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1tissot_the_rod_of_aaron_devours_the_other_rodsShadows of Yesterday, Substance of Today

Egypt was the greatest and most awesome nation that had ever existed. They had wealth, power, and military stature. No country would have dared to come against the might of Egypt in the days of their glory. But all this would change the day that God opened his appointment book and proclaimed that a new day for His people was about to begin.

What Pharaoh and the people of Egypt never understood was the reason they had been blessed and where those blessings had come from. They had attributed their greatness to the blessings of the god of the Nile River, the god of frogs, the god of this or that object or creature. They failed to see that the blessings they had enjoyed had come from the God of the Hebrews. Egypt had merely been the place He had chosen for His purposes.

The day came when the true God, the God of Israel, chose to reveal Himself to the Pharaoh and to all of Egypt. Each time one of their sacred gods fell, they were given a choice. They could choose to continue worshipping the false gods of their making or turn to the one true God. With each plague the choice was given, and with each plague the choice was made. In the end, Egypt would be but a memory, a memory of another culture who did not understand that their purpose was never about them, but it was all about Him and His people.

As I read through the plagues which came upon Egypt, I do so with mixed emotions. There is a sense of excitement, knowing that just as surely as HaShem brought his people out of a pagan land, a pagan system, and back to Himself, He can and indeed is doing so again in our day. To read about the first exodus in light of the fact that we are seeing the birth pangs of the second and greater exodus sends chills up my spine. However, I also feel a sense of sorrow. It is a sorrow which Moses also possibly felt. Moses was not only a major part of freeing his family from slavery. He also witnessed the destruction of a land he had called home for the first forty years of his life, the country where he grew up. Moses had helped to build the society and culture he was now seeing destroyed before his eyes. In this, I am sure he felt great sorrow.

For over two hundred years America has been a great country. I guess some could say it has been the greatest country that has ever existed in six thousand years of history. It is a nation once based upon scripture and the knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It has been a homeland for both physical and spiritual descendants of the patriarchs. America was once known for her moral convictions, which were based on the Ten Commandments. America was known for her efforts to preach the gospel to the four corners of the earth.

Yes, America has been a great country, but somewhere in the journey, America, just as did Egypt, has forgotten her purpose and forgotten her God. Because of this fact, the excitement of the days we live in are tempered with the sorrow of watching a land and country that many of us have called home fall to the same destiny as Egypt of old.

The sorrow of the death of the past must however give way to the excitement and thrill of the inheritance which has been promised. For the Hebrews in Egypt, most never grasped the fact that the events they were seeing before their eyes were events destined to take them home. In fact, they had forgotten that Egypt was not home; it was not their inheritance. Egypt was only a place for them to multiply and grow stronger. Israel was home! Israel was their inheritance!

Today, the system of Egypt is not limited to a country, but rather has spread to the complete world which is falling apart before our eyes. It is not the gods of frogs and rivers, but rather the gods of pagan worship, materialism, power, or worship of the creation and not the Creator, which are being destroyed one by one. For those who have eyes to see, we understand that it is God who is arising. It is He who is destroying the false gods of the world. It is He who is preparing to take His people from the four corners of the earth where He has driven them and return them to their home, their inheritance.

The words of Exodus 6:8 were spoken to the Hebrews of Moses’ day. And they are being spoken to the people of Israel today. They are words calling His people home, calling us to our inheritance. Let us not make the mistakes of the Hebrews then and not realize what God is doing. Let us not be so firmly tied to our own Egypt’s that we fail to see and hear His plans being proclaimed in our midst. Instead, let us embrace with great excitement the walk of exodus being revealed to us. Let us listen to the call. Let us realize we’re also headed home. But let us never take joy in the plagues of judgment which are upon a world which has refused to turn from their gods and to the True God.

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“Vowed to the Land” – V’yechi (He lived)

V’yechi (He lived)

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12

“Vowed to the Land”

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While reading through V’yechi this week, the following words delivered by the Patriarch Jacob really stuck out at me:

“Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession”’” (Genesis 48:3-4).

V’yechi brings us to the end of the Book of Genesis. In just twelve readings, the Scriptures have covered thousands of years of human history. The family chosen to become a people for God’s own possession, and the nation that will be a light to the world, is beginning to take shape as distinctive tribes. The life of the great Patriarch Jacob comes to a close, and his blessings bestowed upon his children and grandchildren give prophetic insight into the future characteristics and destinies of the twelve unique tribes and the emerging nation of Israel (Genesis 49).

Both Jacob and Joseph have some dying requests upon their respective deaths (Jacob: Genesis 47:28-31; 50:1-11; Joseph: Genesis 50:22-26). Both men had a sincere desire for their remains to be returned to the land of their fathers. Why was this so important? Are there some things we can learn from these examples?

Return to the Land

As our Torah reading begins, Jacob is approaching his death and he calls for Joseph to fulfill a pledge:

“When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ He said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:29-31).

As the text continues, Jacob declares his reasons for wanting to be buried in the Land of Canaan:

“Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession”’” (Genesis 48:3-4).

In the case of Jacob, he knew that the destiny of his progeny was in the land promised to his fathers Abraham, Isaac, and ultimately him. Jacob had already prepared a burial site for himself next to Leah in the same cave with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah (Genesis 49:29-33). He also knew from multiple declarations by God that this was a land which was destined for his descendants. Is it possible that Jacob understood that being buried in the area around Hebron would someday give additional justification for his descendants to claim that land? His request for being buried in Canaan is complied with:

“So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt” (Genesis 50:7).

Joseph and his brothers honored the vow they made with their father Jacob. Joseph sought and received permission from Pharaoh to place Jacob in the cave at Machpelah, and a party is sent from Egypt to Canaan after the Egyptians mourn for him and he can be mummified (Genesis 50:1-11). The pattern for honoring vows was firmly established in the hearts of the sons of Jacob. As our parashah concludes, we see Joseph making the same request regarding his burial to his brothers:

“Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:24-26).

Why did Joseph want to be buried in the Land of Canaan, and specifically, in the land promised to him by his father Jacob? There must have been something important to them about this Promised Land. He believed the statements made by his father Jacob that this territory would be an everlasting possession for their descendants. Remember that Joseph had also received an inheritance from Jacob at the conclusion of Jacob’s blessings to Ephraim and Manasseh:

“Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow’” (Genesis 48:21-22).

Notice that it is not until the end of the Book of Joshua when we finally see where the remains of Joseph are placed:

“Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons” (Joshua 24:32).

The people of Israel honored the vow made to Joseph, and transported his mummy through the wilderness experience until he was finally laid to rest at a tomb in Shechem. Is it possible that Joseph knew the importance of making the Land of Canaan, specifically Shechem, his final resting place? Did Joseph understood how this could please the Most High, because he respected his father Jacob who had given him this land for his inheritance? For those of us who study the lives of our spiritual forbearers, this embodiment of faith in the promises of the Lord is very inspirational. Even in death, the Patriarchs staked their claim on the Promised Land!

Testimony of Tombs

Today, the territory promised to the Patriarchs is under constant siege, and their burial memorials are a vivid reminder to us all that the final redemption of the Land is not yet complete. But, we have determined men and women who are standing today as a testimony that the Land of the Patriarchs will eventually be a permanent inheritance for those who serve Israel’s God. Faithful Jewish settlers who risk life and limb to stake a claim on the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are mirroring the pattern of belief exhibited by their ancestors. Many of them revere the memory of Jacob and Joseph, and the vows honored by their forefathers.

In Hebron, a city that is currently controlled by the Palestinian Authority, resides a small community of faithful Jews who are a living example of those who are holding onto the promises that have been given by God. Surrounded by a people who largely want them eliminated, the settlers of Kiryat Arba have maintained a synagogue at the tomb of the Patriarchs.

In like manner, overlooking the valley in Shechem (modern-day Nablus of the Palestinian Authority), where the remains of Joseph are (believed to be) buried, there resides another settlement of faithful Jews who are waiting for the redemption of the Promised Land. The Orthodox Jews of Elon Moreh, until the past few years (2002-2003), had a yeshiva located at the tomb of Joseph in hostile Nablus. These faithful followers are staunch defenders of the Torah and its truths. What can we learn from these faithful Jews, who are studying these very same Torah teachings, this week? Is it possible that when they read these very texts about the burial vows made to Jacob and Joseph, that they will be strengthened in their battle of will against any Palestinians who oppose the God of Israel?

Perhaps we can pray for them. and ask the Father what it is that we can do to support them in their role as witnesses to the veracity of the Scriptures. Through the ages, the very fact that these vows were kept, and are now being honored by these Jews willing to risk their lives, gives many the inspiration needed to persevere. These people are living examples of those who have been preserved through the ages because of their choices to honor vows. Do you now see how important vows can be when honored? Should we not do the same regarding our vows?

We do know that One who will maintain His vows is the Holy One of Israel. One day the Messiah Yeshua will return, and the Land of Israel will become a place of true peace and prosperity! So for the faithful, it is simply a matter of time before this final redemption of the Promised Land is completed. In this time as the Messianic movement grows and expands—and Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are being brought together as one people in Him—we could be witnessing the final stages in God’s redemptive plan coming together. I pray that as we are all brought together, we learn to have an appreciation for the Promised Land—the same that Jacob and Joseph had.

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FORGIVING LOVE

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

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The Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers holds a potent message for
New Testament Christians. Joseph is a type of Christ and his brothers are a
type of God’s chosen people on earth. (Remember, God promised Jacob in Genesis
35:11: “Kings shall come out of thy loins.”) Joseph’s method of dealing with
his brothers is a clear type of God’s way of dealing with us today. This story
of one man’s forgiving love for his sinful brothers is a beautiful picture of
God’s love and grace for sinful man.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is one of the saddest tragedies in all of
God’s Word. This generation of chosen men never could believe they were loved.
The devastating flood of sin and sorrow caused by their skepticism should serve
as a solemn warning to us all.

Jacob felt exceptional love for Joseph, the child of his old age, and made
special provisions to care for him. His older sons construed this extra
attention to mean that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them: “And
when his brethren saw that their father loved him [Joseph] more than all his
brethren, they hated him” (Genesis 37:4).

Now the fact that Jacob loved Joseph so dearly did not mean that he loved his
other sons any less. He had faithfully cared for and blessed all his children.
They had received the same loving guidance and discipline, yet the older sons
became jealous over what appeared to be one brother’s favored position. Joseph
seemed to get everything his heart desired, including a fancy coat of many
colors. He was more blessed, more favored, more coddled—and it made them
angry and jealous.

Have you ever been guilty of envying a brother in the Lord who seems to get
everything he wants? His prayers always seem to be answered quickly. He never
appears lonely, unloved or unneeded while you feel forsaken and alone. The
roots of bitterness and jealousy begin to grow.

Beloved, this is dangerous ground. The moment we believe our heavenly Father
loves us less than He loves someone else, we open ourselves to all kinds of
evil. Whenever we complain about our circumstances, whether aloud or silently
in our hearts, we accuse God of neglect.

Beware! This is the very attitude that brought so much trouble to Joseph’s
brothers.

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