TorahScope – Torah Reading – Mishpatim -Rulings – “Faithfully Do” – 4 February, 2018

Mishpatim – Rulings

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

“Faithfully Do”


by Mark Huey

Last week, our Torah reading Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23[26]) centered on the dramatic events surrounding the appearance of the Almighty Creator God at Mount Sinai, as He conveyed the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel through His servant Moses. The original recipients of these foundational building blocks of faith were primed for embracing them, after they witnessed and participated in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. So magnificent were the miracles and display of God’s power, that even before Moses went up on the mountain, the Ancient Israelites unanimously proclaimed a desire to faithfully do whatever He would proclaim:

“And all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I shall come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever.’ Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:8-9).

After given the opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord proclaim His Instruction to the multitude stationed at the base of Mount Sinai, we find that the Israelites were terrified about their physical survival. So, they implored Moses to maintain his role as an intermediary between the Lord and them:

“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.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:18-20).

Moses calmed the fears of the Israelites, by telling them that God’s display of His power was designed to test them, and so that they would fear Him and avoid any sin that would displease Him. However, the Lord did not give His people just the Ten Commandments, without some specific details about how one could make these directions an integral part of their walk and relationship with Him. So without leaving the recipients in the dark, Moses added some more actions, which should be avoided and/or taken, in order to please the Lord:

“So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it”’” (Exodus 20:21-26).

Making idols of gold and silver was strictly forbidden, but the requirement to build an altar of uncut stones in order to present sacrifices is also witnessed here. From the giving of the Decalogue, God was very concerned about the Ancient Israelites falling into the pattern of many other people groups, who had a tendency to make physical tokens of gods out of gold and silver. Perhaps this was a forewarning about the infamous “golden calf incident” that was forthcoming (Exodus 32), so that there would be no excuses for deviant behavior. On the other hand, by describing the details of the construction of altars, the Lord was definitely reminding His chosen people from the very onset of their desert sojourn, that He desired to be worshipped at places and in ways that are not profaned.

With these reminders, Mishpatim or “Rulings,” largely deals with a selection of ordinances, which in many respects, adds details to how God wanted the Ancient Israelites to behave appropriately to His calling them into holiness (Exodus 19:6). Our Torah reading details about how people should interact with one another, given the challenges that ensue from the imperfections of our world. Surprisingly, perhaps, Mishpatim ends with a desire by the Ancient Israelites to be faithful to perform all the words that the Lord had spoken:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!’” (Exodus 24:3).

With what appears to be another unanimous declaration that the people of Israel will do all of which the Lord had spoken, let us take a look at some of those very words.

A Covetous Overlay

The Ten Commandments undeniably have formed much of the basis for judicial and legal systems throughout the Judeo-Christian world. It can be argued that following the Sinai theophany of God delivering the Ten Words to Ancient Israel, that many of the instructions and regulations that are witnessed in the Torah thereafter, are somehow based upon the Ten Commandments. After delineating the Ten Words, adding a warning about making idols and describing proper altar worship, we should see how Mishpatim goes into great detail, further defining the rights and responsibilities of individuals when issues of life erupt. Much of this could be said to amplify what was communicated by the Tenth Commandment, the prohibition against coveting:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

The sin of covetousness in one’s heart is perhaps one of the most insidious offenses detailed in the Holy Scriptures—because it can be one of the most difficult to detect, and can be the seed of deceit that instigates other sins. Surely, sinful acts committed against fellow humans—such as murder, adultery, stealing, and bearing false witness, as forbidden in the Decalogue—are conceived when a person covets something that another has (James 1:13-15), be it life, a spouse, property, or position in the community. Additionally, it might be said that when one covets his or her own self or personhood, by becoming a god unto oneself or by idolizing oneself, one is exposed to be a violator of the immutable Law of the only One God. By acknowledging that there is a Supreme Being who desires worship, this should impose some limits and restraints on people who would be otherwise inclined by their own willful actions. Alas, though, when confronted with God’s Torah, many people know instinctively that they must obey—but they choose to instead reject it. When speaking of the person who struggles with the power of sin, Paul referenced the Tenth Commandment prohibition against covetousness:

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET’ [Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21]. But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead” (Romans 7:7-8).

As we turn to Mishpatim this week, its ordinances break down to a discussion of civil and criminal matters in Exodus 21:2-22:6, humanitarian considerations in Exodus 22:17-23:19, and warnings against assimilation into paganism in Exodus 23:20-33. I would ask you to try filtering these instructions through a fuller appreciation of what coveting entails. Even if someone were able to follow each of these ordinances to the presumed letter, there will likely be the nagging problem that people will still inevitably stumble over some covetous thoughts, which will convict us of our need for a Savior and His redeeming work. James the Just, half-brother of Yeshua the Messiah, starkly reminds us,

“For whoever keeps the whole Torah but stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10, TLV).

Slavery Defined

Mishpatim, perhaps ironically to some Bible readers, actually begins with God giving instructions to Ancient Israel on how to handle slavery. What makes this a bit odd—other than slaves being some of the lowliest of human beings on the social ladder—is that these directions were given to a group of people who had just been delivered from slavery themselves. Is this at all a bit strange to you? If you have thought that a group of former slaves being told that this is how they were to regulate their own slaves, appears a bit out of place in a Holy Bible ultimately authored by the God of Freedom—then you are not alone. The best answer, that conservative Jewish and Christian scholars can often provide, is that Hebrew slavery in the Tanakh largely pertained to economic status, and was significantly subversive to other Ancient Near Eastern forms of slavery, where masters or slaveowners were literally able to do whatever they wanted with the people whom they owned. Here, in the opening of Mishpatim, we clearly read that this was not the case in Ancient Israel. Limitations were placed upon the status of an eved:

“Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them: If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently” (Exodus 21:1-6).

As you read this small piece of instruction on slavery in Ancient Israel, note how the Lord was especially concerned about the relationship of the slaveowner and the slave. The slave was someone entirely reliant upon the owner—implying that he was someone destitute, who really had no other place to go for sustenance and basic needs. One of the expectations of the owner was to actually provide the slave with a wife with whom he could have children. While to many moderns, the concept of slavery is something that is rightfully repugnant—what we have to consider is the difference between slavery in Israel versus slavery among Israel’s neighbors. Israelite slavery may be regarded as being decisively “liberal.” The Torah’s instruction regarding slavery was greatly different when compared to many of the other law codes of the era, and it decisively laid the foundation back to the human equality that was lost in Eden, but which has been restored in Messiah Yeshua (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 2:11).

A Civil Society

The balance of Mishpatim summarizes a variety of mundane circumstances that occur in practically every society. God foresaw a wide degree of challenges, which would plague a civilization, where people lived and interacted in relative proximity to one another. The Lord detailed a list of instructions that specified actions to be taken when various incidents arose. These included, but were not limited to, how to handle capital offenses ranging from murder to kidnapping, striking or cursing parents, physical abuse, controlling livestock, stealing, maintaining proper boundaries, borrowing implements and lending money practices, proper restitution claims, protecting innocent young women, prohibitions about bearing false witness, avoidance of bribes, and not oppressing strangers (Exodus 21:12-36). By assigning punishments that discourage harmful behavior or establishing guidelines that check greedy inclinations, these Torah commands were designed to mold Israel into God’s desired kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).

Parents Considered

While volumes of commentaries and legal briefs have been written to deal with the different ordinances encounters in Mishpatim, the instruction to apply capital punishment to a person who strikes or curses parents, is something particularly difficult to encounter. Although we later find a repetition of this in Deuteronomy 21:19-21, there is no recorded evidence that it was ever actually practiced in the Holy Scriptures. However, to reflect back on the Decalogue, note how the Fifth Commandment is one of the instructions that offers its adherents a blessing if properly followed:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12).

The Fifth Commandment was reiterated by the Apostle Paul in his instruction to Believers in Asia Minor, urging children to honor their parents:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH [Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16]” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Obviously, the family unit is a key unit of any ordered society. If families are found to be disintegrating, due to children not respecting their parents, further disrespect for civil and communal authority can devolve into blatant civil disobedience—resulting in societal deterioration.

Faithfully Do

When encountering Mishpatim, it can take a student of the Torah down many paths—as the variety of subjects to study or meditate upon range from Hebrew slavery to not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19). As you can imagine, there are many things one can consider during this week of examination. However, it is beneficial to once again recognize that even after these ordinances were given to the Ancient Israelites in the Thirteenth Century B.C.E., there was a universal acceptance by the people to strive to perform all that the Lord had spoken. Accordingly, Moses wrote down those words, and then at the foot of Mount Sinai after the offering of many sacrifices, he took blood, and sprinkled it on the altar, and then on the people who agreed to obey the words of the Lord:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’ Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 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 24:3-8; cf. Hebrews 9:19-22).

How should we approach Mishpatim? Our Torah reading undeniably demands that God’s people live in a different manner than those of the world at large, offering care and concern for other people. That those who are privileged should offer relief and mercy for the destitute is absolutely imperative to consider. Our Torah reading also forces Messianic readers today to exhibit considerable trust and reliance in our Eternal Creator, as we strive to understand His mind in interacting with ancient people with widely different values than our own—and as Twenty-First Century Messianics seek to adequately evaluate the trajectory of Holy Scripture. The faith to be exhibited in understanding the instructions given in Mishpatim, as I must personally confess (and I am sure I speak for many other Messianics), is significant. (Click to Source)

Devarim – Words – “Rehearsing the Truths” – 23 July, 2017

Devarim

Words

Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-27

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by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

The Book of Deuteronomy is a repetition and an amplification by Moses, of many of the commands of the Lord given in the Torah, so that the Ancient Israelites would not disobey Him, as they prepared themselves to enter into the Promised Land. In the opening chapters of Devarim, the reinforcement of an historical perspective is recorded, as Moses recalled many of the places where he probably had to admonish the people to obey the Lord:

“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

Moses then defined the boundaries of what has been described as “the Greater Israel” that was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them’” (Deuteronomy 1:8-11).

When one plots out these boundaries, it is abundantly clear that in modern times, the State of Israel has never come close to securing for itself all of what was originally promised. It has not been since the days of Kings David and Solomon that this promise was actually fulfilled. But that was over 2,500 years ago, and in the interim, Israel has not been able to secure all of these territories and have control over these promised regions in the Middle East. We know that according to prophecy, when Israel is restored in the Last Days, that somehow Israel will occupy these borders. However, when or how this will specifically take place is anyone’s guess at this point in time.

The key with seeing Israel restored, more than anything else, is that all must corporately acknowledge Yeshua the Messiah as its king. Most of the Jewish people on Earth today have rejected Yeshua as the Messiah, and most in Christianity fail to recognize who He was as a First Century Jewish Rabbi. This has begun to significantly change in the past thirty to fifty years through the growth of Messianic Judaism and the Hebraic Roots movement. Many Jews have turned to faith in Messiah Yeshua, and many non-Jewish Believers have recognized the importance of their Hebraic Roots. Without one’s personal recognition that apart from Yeshua dwelling inside of us, unredeemed human beings can do nothing of eternal significance:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:4-6). (Click to Site)

Balak – Destroyer – “Self-Inflicted Curses” – 2 July, 2017

“Self-Inflicted Curses”

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by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Balak, chronologically finds the Ancient Israelites further down the trail on their arduous and circuitous march to Canaan, the Promised Land, but without the able counsel of Aaron to co-administer with the aging Moses. Following the death of Aaron (Numbers 20:24-29), the indigenous populations of the desert areas begin an incessant military attack on the migrating Israelites. A brief engagement with the Canaanites is described in Numbers 21, as Israel must turn to the Holy One for guidance and deliverance to secure victory.

Israel’s journeys take a turn to avoid the conflict with the Edomites, who earlier had refused passage through their territory (Numbers 20:18-21). At this point, the complaints of Israel once again centered around their perceived lack of bread and water (Numbers 21:5). To chastise the Israelite grumblers, God sent snakes into the camp with a deadly venomous bite (Numbers 21:6). This judgment created an opportunity for Israel to gaze, by faith, upon the brazen serpent fashioned by Moses in order to receive physical healing (Numbers 21:7-9). The lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, is intended to parallel the lifting up of Yeshua the Messiah on the cross:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Rather than elaborate on the significance of this to our faith, I would like to instead focus on how the Torah goes on to record the continuing sojourn of the Israelite survivors in the wilderness. The journey continues as a series of encampments are detailed from Oboth to Moab to Zared, to beyond the Aram at the border between the Moabites and the Amorites (Numbers 21:10-14). Apparently, more specific details of these different encampments and the conflicts that ensued were contained in another text called “the Book of the Wars of the LORD” (Numbers 21:14), that today is no longer extant.[1] Some additional locations are cited as the sojourn proceeds “from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the land of Moab, at the top of Pisgah which overlooks the wasteland” (Numbers 21:19-20).

Many Bible scholars have attempted to trace the exact locations of these wanderings, and Biblical archaeologists are often very interested as to where they might have been located in the Ancient Near East. Time does not permit us the luxury of researching these specific places, but most assuredly, we know that God gave His people more instruction and admonition at each stop. (Click to Article)

TorahScope – Pequdei (Accounts) – “Weight of Glory” – FEBRUARY 28, 2014

Pequdei (Accounts) – “Weight of Glory”

The eleventh and final parashah of the Book of Exodus comes to an exciting conclusion with the appearance of the glory of God in the completed Tabernacle. Exodus 40:34 tells us, “the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Lord [kavod Adonai, hwhy dAbk] filled the Tabernacle” (NJPS).

For the past ten weeks, since the introduction of Moses in Shemot, the Israelites have been set on a soul-searching journey into the wilderness. It began with the deliverance and Exodus from Egypt, and it now culminates with God’s glory residing in their midst. If you did not know any better, you might think that a considerable amount of time has passed because the people have been through an intense period of getting to know their Creator. But instead, it has just been over one year since Moses first appeared and demanded that the Egyptian Pharaoh let them go. The Tabernacle was assembled on the first day of the first month of the second year following the Exodus (Exodus 40:17). With the Tabernacle now constructed and ready to go, the assembly of Israel would pack it up and move at the Holy One’s explicit direction:

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:34-38).

In just over a year, this camp of Hebrew men, women, children, and integrated sojourners, constituted the emerging nation of Israel. This former rabble of slaves was now a body of free men and women chosen by God to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), being raised up as a light to the world to convey His goodness to all (cf. Isaiah 42:6).

Through Moses, the Lord has revealed just enough about Himself and what He requires for His glory to reside among humans with various sinful inclinations. For the first time since the Garden of Eden, God’s glory can dwell with people in a somewhat tangible and observable manner. The instructions for the Tabernacle, its implements, and the courtyard surrounding it have been followed explicitly. Then at the appointed time, Moses anointed and consecrated the Tabernacle and everything in it. He then washed Aaron and his sons and anointed them in their holy garments: “Thus did Moses: according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he” (Exodus 40:16).

One can only imagine the excitement that was running through the hearts of the Ancient Israelites as the construction project came to completion. Remember that over the course of the previous year the Lord had revealed a tremendous amount about who He is and what He requires of His people. Israel had witnessed the judgment upon Egypt. They saw the ten plagues and the devastation they caused, and they benefited from the Passover offering by avoiding the death of the firstborn. The miracles at the Red Sea crossing were still etched in their memories. The trauma of hearing the voice of God from the trembling mountain and the unanimous decision to let Moses be their mediator could never be forgotten. Receiving the Ten Commandments and other instructions started to outline rules and regulations for human interactions and how Israel would be formed as a nation.

Of course, the incident of the golden calf had horrific consequences. Not only did judgment fall upon the people by the sword-wielding Levites, but a plague sent by the Lord judged all whose hearts were not right (Exodus 32:35). If you will recall, the material needs for the Tabernacle were mentioned in the text before the rebellion of idol worship occurred. God used the remorse, and perhaps even guilt, of these incidents, to generate an overwhelming response when the material was finally gathered. As we reviewed last week in V’yakheil(Exodus 35:1-38:20), hearts were stirred and the outpouring was so great that the people were ordered to stop.

God’s Glory

As I meditated upon this week’s Torah portion, a summary of the Book of Exodus kept coming into my mind. It was incredible to comprehend what happened to Ancient Israel in just a little over a year of real time. From the bonds and burden of human slavery to encampment around the Tabernacle, this was quite a journey. The weight of God’s glory (kavod, dwbK) was now in their midst—rather than the yoke of servitude. Once the glory of God fell, Moses was unable to enter the Tent of Meeting:

Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:35, ATS).

Apparently, the presence of the Holy One of Israel was so intense that human interaction with Him was difficult to achieve. Even the beloved Moses was hindered from entering the Tent of Meeting. As I thought about this, I wondered about other recorded times that the glory of God fell upon Israel.

The completion of Solomon’s Temple was a time when the glory of God fell upon the Israelites gathered. Similar to what occurred in the wilderness, the priests were unable to enter because of the intense presence of God:

“It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11).

“[I]n unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying,He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,’ then the house, the house of theLord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).

According to the statements about the completion of the Tabernacle, and the testimonies from when the Temple of Solomon was dedicated, the manifestations of the glory of Godwere so intense that those gathered were either prevented from moving, or perhaps even forced to bow down. While considering these passages, I wondered about the times when I have felt the literal weight of God’s glory in my own spiritual experiences over the years.

Psalm 22:3 immediately comes to my mind: “Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” There have been times during praise and worship when I have felt the weight of God’s glory in the room where I have been worshipping. These have been very special times when the Lord has ministered to me.

As I pondered this thought, I was reminded of a vision from the Prophet Isaiah, which in some way conveys how one might respond if he or she were standing before the Throne of God:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:1-5).

For some reason, whenever I think of this passage, I envision Isaiah prostrated on the ground, barely looking up at the Throne of God, crying out for our mercy before the Holy One in light of the exposure of his human sins and limitations. Here, Isaiah confesses his state of total sinfulness. Isaiah says that he is a person of unclean lips, and lives with those who likewise have unclean lips.

Contemplating this passage, I was reminded of the title of this week’s text, Pequdei or “Accounts.” As it begins, we see the amount of actual weight in the precious metals and jewels used in the Tabernacle project (cf. Exodus 39). For some reason, the Lord reminds us that He is very mindful of particulars. Then without hesitation, I recalled a passage in the Gospels from the lips of Yeshua:

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

I thought about all of the careless words that come from human beings’ unclean lips. Note how Yeshua made this statement when He was being accused of being demon possessed:

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of hisevil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:28-35).

This week (in 2003) I was made aware of a person who believed that a gospel presentation which was recently given was actually from Satan. This was rather interesting, because it was made from viewing a videotape. If this individual had looked a bit more closely at the video, then he would have observed a number of people prostrated on the floor and on their knees. Saying that something comes from the Devil is a major accusation. Was the presence of God present at the event recorded? In my opinion, there certainly were many evidences of His presence from the testimonies that came forth. I dare say it would have been best for this person to reserve his judgment, pending future evaluation.

While reflecting on these things, I caught myself and began praying for the person who believed the work of the Holy Spirit was demonic. I began praying for his soul, knowing that he may be unable to discern or differentiate between the acts of the Devil and the acts of the Most High. I prayed that he was simply immature in his spiritual walk, and that the Lord convict him of any wrongdoing. I also found myself confessing any unloving thoughts I had when I initially heard these accusations. To be fair, I know that I can also misunderstand the ways of the Lord and make incorrect conclusions.

Weight of Glory

As you can see from Pequdei, we have come a long way from meditating on the history of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt to the introduction of God’s glory in the Tabernacle. In many respects, this is how the study of God’s Word is to cleanse us of unrighteousness—by reminding us of our shortcomings and our need for a Savior. Without Yeshua’s precious blood covering us, and the unconditional love He has shown for us—those of us with unclean lips, living among those with unclean lips, would never be able to come into God’s presence. My prayer is that each of us would seek the place where the weight of His glory would be upon us continually as our lips offer Him praise!

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Click to http://outreachisrael.net/torahscope/2013-2014/02_exodus/11_pequkei.html

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TorahScope – “The Heart of the Matter” – Terumah (Contribution) – JANUARY 31, 2014

Terumah (Contribution)

Exodus 25:1-27:19
1 Kings 5:26-6:13

“The Heart of the Matter”

This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, details the construction of the Tabernacle which the glory of God occupied during the Ancient Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. This temporary dwelling place was used by Israel until the First Temple was constructed in Jerusalem by King Solomon. As you read through the details of the Tabernacle’s materials and its construction, you can marvel at the minute particulars that come forth from the instructions of the Master Builder. The finest natural materials are utilized, which are all thought to have significant symbolic interpretations. But regardless of the specificity of the blueprints and materials, two overwhelming themes bubble to the surface as you read the account:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution’” (Exodus 25:1-2).

From the title of our parashahterumah (hmWrT), meaning “contribution, offering, for sacred uses” (BDB, 929), you find that the Holy One of Israel is looking for people who have a strong heart’s desire to offer valuable contributions for the construction project. God was looking for a people who would love, honor, and respect Him enough so that they would be entirely willing—from the heart—to offer up their valuable resources in order to build the Tabernacle and fashion all of its furnishings and accoutrements, for the priestly service. We learn from some later comments that the response to the request was overwhelming to the point that an order was issued to stop the outpouring of freewill gifts:

“And they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more (Exodus 36:5-6).

From the beginning of the wilderness journey—after witnessing the miracles of the defeat of the Egyptians, the provisions of manna, quail, and water, hearing the voice of the Lord bellowing from Mount Sinai, and receiving the Ten Commandments—the Ancient Israelites were prepared to give freely of their possessions for the assembly of the Tabernacle. The God of Israel articulates the second theme which is evident not only in this Torah portion, but throughout the Holy Scriptures, as He makes His great desire made known to Moses:

“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them”(Exodus 25:8).

The Lord has a strong desire to dwell (Heb. verb shakan, !kv) among His people. This is an important statement because even though He desires for a sanctuary or mishkan (!Kvm) to be built, our Heavenly Father is really stating that He desires to just dwell among His people. Even though there is a construction project for a specific structure to represent His holiness, He actually says that He wants to dwell among human beings. From this wording, you get the impression that the Holy One just wants to walk among His people in a similar fashion to the way He established the relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:

“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LordGod among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8).

As you ponder the theme of dwelling with the Creator, we see the intimate relationship that God is attempting to establish with His chosen ones. He desires a people whose hearts yearn for Him and with whom He can dwell! The rest of the account in Mishpatim simply concerns details that have significant meaning, and which convey the majesty and dignity of the Tabernacle and priestly service—serving as tangible manifestations of His heart’s desire.

When you take a look at the associated Haftarah portion in 1 Kings 5:26-6:13, you discover that in spite of the impressive construction project developed by Solomon and Hiram during their time of relative peace, the overwhelming theme is still God simply wanting to dwell with His people. For whatever reasons, it is apparent that humanity needs physical structures in order to imagine spiritual and relational principles. The Creator knows this attribute, and consequently fulfills this need by orchestrating both the wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple to be constructed.

The Good Shepherd

The most significant point that the Lord is trying to convey from Mishpatimregards the melding of one’s heart attitude, and His intended residence among His people. Probably the most vivid analogy, that is used to communicate the essence of this relationship, is the image derived from the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep. The Holy One is often described as a Good Shepherd who is constantly walking among His sheep tending to their needs. Recall how when the Patriarch Jacob communicated some of his final blessings, he referred to God as a shepherd (Heb. verb ra’ah, h[r):

“He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day’” (Genesis 48:15).

Later, when blessing Joseph specifically, another reference to God as the Great Shepherd is witnessed:

“But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses youwith blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers” (Genesis 49:24-26).

Of course, most Bible readers are eager to remember David’s reference to God being his Shepherd in Psalm 23:

“A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd [Adonai ro’i, y[r hwhy], I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).

Less well-known words come from Qohelet, as he summarizes his life experience:

“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd [nittenu m’ro’eh, h[rm WnTn]. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14).

The Prophets are also replete about referring to God as a Shepherd:
·  “Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd [k’ro’eh, h[rK] He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes”(Isaiah 40:10-11).

·  “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock [k’ro’eh]’” (Jeremiah 31:10).

·  “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans ofJudah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore He will give them upuntil the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherdHis flock in the strength of the Lord [v’amad v’ra’ah b’oz Adonai, hwhy z[B h[rw dm[w], in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:2-4).
And of course, perhaps most important, Yeshua referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd to His Disciples, as He explained the mission and purpose of His ministry:

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters themHe flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd [Egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos, Egw eimi o poimhn o kaloß], and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:11-16).

The author of Hebrews summarized his treatise by calling the workings of the Holy One, the works of the Great Shepherd:

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep [ton poimena tōn probatōn ton megan, ton poimena twn probatwn ton megan] through the blood of the eternal covenant, evenYeshua our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Yeshua the Messiah, to whom bethe glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Earlier in his work, the author quoted extensively from the Prophets in order to communicate many of the principles relating to the wilderness Tabernacle and how it applies to Believers’ lives through the inauguration of the New Covenant:

“Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, ‘See,’ He says, ‘That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain’ [Exodus 25:40]. But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first…had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, ‘Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when i will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which i made with their fathers on the day when i took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that i will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:4-12; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34, LXX).

In Hebrews chs. 8-9, the author gives his audience a description of the wilderness Tabernacle, and the distinction made between it and “the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11). This is what Yeshua entered into in Heaven, as He performs the required priestly duties, as our intermediary between God the Father and humanity at large (Hebrews 4:14-15). The author of Hebrews quotes directly from the Prophet Jeremiah, who describes that the New Covenant that God will make will write the Torah onto the hearts of the people by His Holy Spirit:

“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know theLord,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

These conclusions come after Jeremiah has described the work of God as Shepherd to scatter and then gather His flock:

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock’” (Jeremiah 31:10).

Hear O Israel

One of the awesome works of our God, as the Good Shepherd, is that He will supernaturally transcribe His Torah onto the hearts of His sheep, as He is their God and they will surely be His people. As this transformative action occurs in every heart, of every man and woman of God who recognizes Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, he or she can fully live forth the Shema:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

The imperative here is that each individual is to love the Lord God of Israel with all of his or her heart, and to see that the principles of God’s commandments are embedded within his or her mind. This can be conducted by a number of crucial exercises and disciplines. The Father knows human beings’ propensity to wander and to avoid following His commands, and so in order to help inscribe His Instruction upon the heart and mind, He has detailed some basic guidelines to help with the process. This includes a daily routine of waking up and thinking about Him, and instructing our children about Him and His love for us. Going to sleep at night, our final thoughts should be focused on the Lord. Everything that we put our hands to, or every thought that we consider, should be viewed through the grid of His understandings. In the Shema, we are even told to put the commandments of God on the very doorposts of our houses and gates, so that we will be reminded as we leave our home and return—of the imperative need to focus all of our attention, love, and loyalty to Him!

As you read and reflect upon the Shema, you almost get the impression that the Holy One of Israel wants as much of our attention just as your husband or wife would. He wants our hearts to be turned toward Him so that we will be one with Him in thoughts, deeds, and actions. We can yearn for such intimacy with our Creator that many of our spiritual forbearers in the faith have modeled for us. Figures like King David knew the Lord intimately, and his Psalms reflect the great love he had for Him. Psalm 19 is an excellent example for us to consider:

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of theLord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:1-14).

Here, we see how King David has such a desire for intimacy with the Lord, that he does not even want his thoughts to be unacceptable in His sight. I pray that each of our hearts would be as sensitive!

The Tabernacle of David

Today, our gracious Heavenly Father surely continues to look for people He can indwell with His intimate presence. We are each called to be a tabernacle for Him to occupy. We know that the Prophet Amos in the Seventh Century B.C.E., and James the Just First Century C.E., both affirm a rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David as a key part in the eventual restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Amos first decrees,

“‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord. ‘For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the Lord who does this. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the Lord your God” (Amos 9:8-15).

Amos’ prophecy looks forward to the restoration of the fallen Tabernacle of David. This includes the return of a sizeable part of Israel (mostly from the Northern Kingdom) that had been sown into the nations, as well as many of the nations themselves being integrated into the holy community. As God let him see into the future, Amos knew the time would surely come when the captivity of Israel would be over, and His people will return to the Promised Land to rebuild cities, plant vineyards, drink wine, make gardens, and eat their fruit.

At the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, upon hearing the testimony of Paul, Barnabas, and Peter regarding the salvation of Jewish people and various Greeks and Romans coming to faith in the Messiah of Israel—James the Just makes a distinct connection between the non-Jews coming to faith and Amos’ prophecy. Rather than capitulate to the demands of a few hyper-conservative Pharisees that such non-Jewish Believers be ordered to keep the Mosaic Torah (Acts 15:5, Grk.), James instead acknowledged that the words of the Prophets were in play. He places the salvation of the non-Jews in the First Century within the scope of expectations regarding the eventual restoration of all Israel:

“After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and i will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:13-21).

The difference between what Amos prophecies is that James says “so the rest of humanity may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles who are called by My name” (Acts 15:17, HCSB). Luke’s transcription in Acts does not follow the Hebrew text of Amos, but the Septuagint rendering which reads with hoi kataloipoi tōn anthrōpōn (oi kataloipoi twn anqrwpwn) for the Hebrew sh’eirit Edom(~Ada tyrav). The LXX Rabbis understood Edom (~Ada) to be connected to adam(~da), also the Hebrew word for “mankind, people” (HALOT, 1:14) and rendered it in Greek as “those remaining of humans” (NETS), referring to God’s faithful remnant that would come forth out of humanity’s masses. James makes a connection between the salvation of Israel and those of the nations coming to faith in Israel’s Messiah.

James would have had to recognize that a critical part of Israel’s restoration would have been an obedience to God’s Torah by all coming into the fold. In Ezekiel 37:24, we are told that when all Israel is restored “they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.” As James was considering the salvation of the nations, he was reflecting on the restoration of the Tabernacle of David described by the Prophet Amos. Why force the non-Jewish Believers to keep the Torah, when prophecy should be allowed to take its natural course? The nations were to come to Zion to be taught God’s Instruction (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3), and the promise of the New Covenant was that the Torah would be supernaturally transcribed on redeemed hearts as a special work of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Today, almost two millennia later, we have yet to see the complete fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy. The presence of today’s Messianic movement, and the unique work it has in seeing Jewish people brought to saving faith in the Messiah Yeshua and evangelical Christians brought into a tangible appreciation of their Hebraic Roots—leads me to believe that “the words of the Prophets” (Acts 15:15) are going to become increasingly more important to recognize in the days to come. As we all begin to truly understand this, we need to allow ourselves both individually and corporately to be a people who can be filled up with the Spirit of God, serving as a living sacrifice that faithfully emulates the Lord Yeshua (cf. Romans 12:1-2). If we are truly able to do this, then we can all compose that holy nation and separated people, truly accomplishing the mission of God, which the Apostle Peter says we will be:

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Messiah Yeshua. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed’ [Isaiah 28:16]. This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone’ [Psalm 118:22], and, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’ [Isaiah 8:14]; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race [Isaiah 43:20], a royal priesthood [Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6], a holy nation [Exodus 19:6], a people for God’sown possession [Isaiah 43:21; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2], so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you havereceived mercy [Hosea 2:23]” (1 Peter 2:4-10).

When we can all truly understand how every redeemed man and woman in Yeshua is a part of “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (NIV), then we can marvel in our privilege to serve the Lord fully—most especially in terms of declar[ing forth] the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV)! When the world at large can see us demonstrating the Lord’s goodness toward them, as we testify of the salvation He has provided, then we can really begin to see the complete restoration of David’s Tabernacle.

As we contemplate these awesome truths, we must reflect upon our own hearts, wondering in which capacity we can serve God and make a difference in our generation. We need to search our hearts and consider what the meditations of our hearts are. What motivates us? Do we wake up with His thoughts on our minds? Do we go to sleep considering His ways? Are we training up our young people according to His precepts? Everyone will be accountable for their actions, deeds, and thoughts.

In the end, it comes down to being a matter of the heart. May our hearts be His and His be ours!

Click to http://outreachisrael.net/torahscope/2013-2014/02_exodus/07_terumah.html

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“Shema Yisrael” – Yitro (Jethro) – Torah Scope – JANUARY 17, 2014

After considering what has thus far transpired in the Book of Exodus, this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, involves one of the most memorable scenes outside of the deliverance from Egypt. It is in this reading where the Lord visits Mount Sinai and delivers the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:1-20:17). The Ancient Israelites were deathly afraid of what was taking place, and so Moses has to explain what the intention of this awesome scene is intended to mean for them:

“Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin’” (Exodus 20:20).

Here at the bottom of Mount Sinai, the people of Israel actually hear the voice of the Lord. One would think that this would be a blessed event, but from the reaction recorded, we read that the people were absolutely terrified by the Voice:

“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…So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven”’” (Exodus 20:18, 21-22).

Prior to this time since the Exodus from Egypt, the Lord had chosen to communicate to Israel through His intermediary Moses. For the most part, the Israelites were quite content with this means of communication. After all, a considerable amount of the information that came to them from Moses was very encouraging. Consider some of earlier statements from Moses just prior to the Divine declaration of the Ten Commandments:

“‘“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’ So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lordhad commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that theLord has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord” (Exodus 19:5-8).

Here, the Lord communicates a fairly simple if/then formula for Israel to become a holy nation of priests. It conveys the mission of what they are to do as intermediaries between the Creator and the rest of the Earth. It should have been something very hopeful to those who really were ready to enter into God’s purpose and no longer be slaves at the behest of Egypt.

The Israelites had just witnessed a great deliverance from the Egyptians and had only been in the desert several months. The Lord was fighting their battles. Their basic daily nourishment was provided for by the morning arrival of manna. They were probably feeling pretty confident about their relationship with Him. Without much hesitation, upon hearing what God was calling them to do, they responded to the proposal with these affirming words:

“All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord” (Exodus 19:8).

Remarkably, the Scriptures record that all of the people agreed to do all that the Lord had spoken. This was apparently a sincere response. But little did the Ancient Israelites understand the magnitude of their commitment. At this point in the narrative, we see their response to the Lord, but not a huge amount of instruction on what it means to specifically follow and obey Him is given. As you can imagine, the Lord is already putting in motion a monumental event that will test the hearts of the Israelites, and ascertain whether they can really honor this pledge of obedience:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.’ Then Moses told the words of the people to the Lord” (Exodus 19:9).

The Lord is going to accomplish two objectives by letting His people hear His voice. First, He will let them understand more about His holiness, and how they must consecrate themselves in order to even hear His voice. Secondly, He is going to solidify Moses’ position as their intermediary before Him. Moses comes back to the people and gives them instructions on how to consecrate themselves, before the Holy One will speak to them (Exodus 19:10-17). A period of separation commences, as physical actions start preparing Israel for hearing the voice of the Lord:

“The Lord also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, “Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death”…So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman’” (Exodus 19:10-12, 14-15).

The people begin to prepare for hearing the voice of God. Looming in the distance was a dark cloud over Mount Sinai. The people could see, and possibly even feel, the presence of the Lord. They began to cleanse themselves and did not have sexual relations for several days. Limits were set around the base of the mountain. People were told not to touch it for fear of death. Each of these actions was preparing Israel for a profound event. By performing these required things, the hearts of the Ancient Israelites were being focused on the opportunity to hear the actual voice of the Creator.

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and the blast of a piercing shofar. The moment for God to speak was approaching:

“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder” (Exodus 19:18-19).

It is difficult to imagine how frightening this must have been for the Ancient Israelites. The noise of the shofar was increasing in intensity. The top of Mount Sinai was engulfed in fire and smoke. As they stood there, the whole mountain shook violently. The people thought they were going to die. After all, it had been much easier to listen to the requirements of the Lord when Moses came back and reported his conversations with Him. At this juncture, Israel was fully engaged in hearing the actual voice of God—and then the Lord declares the Ten Words. Can you imagine how petrified the people were when these commands came forth? The intensity of the fear is recorded after the commands are declared.

With fear and trepidation the people immediately wanted to go back to the former way of communing with the Most High (Exodus 19:20). Apparently, the voice of God was so powerful that the people believed they were going to die. Even after they were consecrated before Him, the Israelites were convinced that they would rather have Moses as their mediator. The fear was that intense!

Interestingly, Moses immediately tells the Israelites that the Lord is using this event to test them: “God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray” (Exodus19:20, NJPS). A holy fear should be instilled in them so that they would not sin and rebel against Him. God is very serious about His people not sinning—something that even until today has not changed!

How about today? Is there something we should be learning from the experiences of the Ancient Israelites? How should we be approaching the Lord?

The author of Hebrews refers to the events we have been considering in the past few Torah readings, imploring how Believers in Yeshua are to take seriously the Divine work of God. His admonition is to not let Believers’ hearts be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and remember the examples of the past when God’s people have had to be severely punished for their disloyalty to Him:

“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways’; as I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest”’ [Psalm 95:7-11]. Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Messiah, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me’ [Psalm 95:7-8]. For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:7-19).

In this passage, the author of Hebrews reminds his audience that the generation which came out of Egypt hardened their hearts instead of listening to God’s voice. By hardening their hearts, they did not know the ways of the Lord. In fact, because of their disobedience, they were not allowed to enter into the rest of the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Within his argument is the implication that if such severe punishment was enacted upon these people in Israel’s past, how much more severe punishment can be guaranteed those who deny the more recent (for the First Century C.E.) andeven more serious deliverance via the Messiah’s sacrifice?

We need to remember that according to the words of Yeshua Himself, the ability to hear the voice of the Holy One is something fully accessible to His followers. Today, in this post-resurrection era, we have the privilege of hearing the voice of the Most High. Instead of exclusively having to rely on others to listen to Him for us, we should be striving to listen to the voice of the Holy One ourselves. Remember that our Heavenly Father has sent His Son Yeshua to be the Good Shepherd over His people:

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:14-16, 27-28).

We know that in this passage Yeshua called Himself the Good Shepherd, and His flock were the people who would hear His voice. Are you part of His flock?Are you hearing the Lord’s voice and obeying Him? If you are, then you should be comforted by your desire to please Him. But if you are not hearing His voice and obeying Him—conforming your life to the example left by the Messiah—perhaps you need to cry out to the Lord for mercy. As the author of Hebrews reminds us concerning the ancient encounter at Mount Sinai, there is a different mountain that we should now be approaching—one even more awesome and profound—as awesome and profound as Mount Sinai enveloped in smoke surely was:

“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling’ [Exodus 19:12-13]. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and [congregation] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned themon earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (Hebrews 12:18-25).

Here, the warning is to seek Yeshua as the Mediator of the New Covenant. We are reminded that we should not refuse His voice (cf. Hebrews 3:3). If so, the consequences for Believers today are even worse than those from the Exodus generation: You will not enter His eternal rest! So without any hesitation, dear brothers and sisters, remember: hear and obey. Shema Yisrael!

Click to http://outreachisrael.net/torahscope/2013-2014/02_exodus/05_yitro.html