EMPOWERED BY GOD’S PRESENCE

David Wilkerson (1931-2011) – July 26, 2019

 

Scripture provides endless examples of how the presence of the Lord empowers his people to live for him. Take Moses, for example. He was convinced that without God’s presence in his life, it was useless for him to attempt anything. When he spoke face to face with the Lord, he stated boldly, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). He was saying, “Lord, if you’re not with us, we are not going to make it. We will not go a single step without the assurance of your presence.”

God’s presence is what sets us apart from nonbelievers. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of great blessings that came to those who had God’s presence with them. For instance, God’s presence was so evident in Abraham’s life that even the heathen around him recognized the difference between their lives and his. The heathen king Abimelech said, “God is with you in all that you do” (Genesis 21:22).

God promised Joshua that no enemy could stand against him when his presence was with him: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:5-6). When God’s Spirit is present in your life, you can be a conqueror because you trust his promise to be with you in everything you do.

God shared with Isaiah a special promise he makes to those he loves: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine … I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:1, 3, 5). With God’s presence abiding in you, you can go through any fire and not just survive, but be kept safe and protected through it all. Just as it was with Moses, Abraham and others, you have a powerful testimony of God’s presence in your life today. (Click to Source)

 

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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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To The Jew First – The New Covenant is for Israel – Dr. Todd Baker Zola Levitt Ministries Staff Theologian

She eagerly accepted a copy of the Hebrew Bible with the New Testament, and also
some Messianic Gospel tracts that explain how a Jewish person can accept Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah and still be a Jew. There’s no “conversion” involved. Jews can—and should—trust that Yeshua is the Messiah.

.

On the latest To The Jew First (TJF) Gospel outreach in Israel, team member
August Rosado and I watched, once again, as the Holy Spirit of God
opened doors to witness about Yeshua the Messiah to the Jewish people.
One powerful day comes to mind.

As August and I were leaving the Kotel (Western Wall) after prayer, a
young Jewish man eating his lunch greeted us as we walked by. Sensing
that the Lord wanted us to engage this young Israeli, August and I stopped to
chat with Tal while he was on his lunch break from his job at an archaeologicaldig nearby.

In the course of our conversation, Tal casually admitted that he was an
atheist. I gently pointed out that he was actually an agnostic, because no
one can know with absolute certainty that God does not exist. Man simply lacks the power, knowledge, and physical means to make such a claim. Tal agreed.

Now on common footing, I shared with Tal about my former life as an
unenlightened atheist. I told him that when the Son of God supernaturally
revealed Himself to me, He led me to the Scriptures and convinced me that everything that Yeshua said and did in the New Testament was absolutely true.

August and I then challenged Tal to take a copy of the Scriptures—both the Old and New Testaments—in Hebrew to see this saving truth for himself. Tal initially
balked at our invitation, but after the Holy Spirit persuaded him, Tal accepted the
Bible in order to test his agnosticism in the light of God’s Word.

After we left Tal, August and I encountered two young Israeli women raising money for an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) charity. August spoke with one of the women, while
I shared the Gospel with the other, Bathsheva. I told Bathsheva about a new covenant that was promised in the Tanakh, or Old Testament, to Israel in Jeremiah 31:31–37.

Then I related it to Yeshua, the One who ratified this covenant in the B’rit Hadashah,
or New Testament (Matthew 26:28). Bathsheva immediately understood the clear connection between the two Testaments of the Jewish Bible. From talking to her, I could see that Bathsheva had a good, working understanding of the Tanakh from
her Orthodox Jewish upbringing.

But this was the first time she’d heard about the New Covenant for
Israel being prophesied, or even mentioned, in the Tanakh! She expressed a genuine interest to learn more about the Messiah, the Messenger of the New Covenant. She eagerly accepted a copy of the Hebrew Bible with the New Testament, and also
some Messianic Gospel tracts that explain how a Jewish person can accept Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah and still be a Jew. There’s no “conversion” involved. Jews can—and
should—trust that Yeshua is the Messiah. (Click to Site)

Naso (Take) – “Blessings and Shalom”

Naso (Take)

Numbers 4:21-7:89
Judges 13:2-25

“Blessings and Shalom”

The most striking feature in this week’s Torah portion, Naso, is the reciting of what has become known as the Aaronic Benediction. While a standard feature of the Jewish liturgical tradition and of the weekly Shabbat service, Christians are certainly familiar with this blessing as well:

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

Naso, of course, includes much more information than just its record of the Aaronic Benediction. Naso is a rather interesting Torah reading because it gives meticulous instruction about a wide variety of topics. Initially, as Numbers 4 concludes, the parashah begins by summarizing additional details about the priestly functions of two of the Levitical families numbered and responsible for specific duties concerning the Tabernacle and the altar. The Gershonites and the Merarites are explicitly selected for transporting and constructing the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:21-49). What is interesting to note, just as we saw inBamidbar last week, is how the Lord is very concerned about each individual and the task that is assigned to them: “Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry” (Numbers 4:32b, NIV). This level of detail allows one to understand more clearly why the God of Israel is not some remote or distant Deity, but is instead a very personal God who is intimately involved in the details of life.

In Numbers 5, after describing some conditions that require removal from the camp (Numbers 5:1-4), the narrative shifts to an instructional overview of the law of jealousy and how Israelite men were to handle perceived or real jealousy with their wives (Numbers 5:5-31). In Numbers 6, the ritual of the Nazirite vow is explained (Numbers 6:1-21), culminating with what has been traditionally labeled the instruction for declaring forth the Aaronic Benediction (Numbers6:22-27). Finally in Numbers 7, our selection then moves ahead in time to the events that occurred when the Tabernacle was first built and its dedication was celebrated by the tribes of Israel (Numbers 7:1-89). The final crescendo for our parashah this week comes when Moses is given the privilege of hearing the voice of God:

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

With this wide range of instruction and information seen in Naso, it is normal for us to ask God about what He is trying to communicate. From the minute detail regarding which individuals will handle specific implements, to the dedication of the Tabernacle and the presence of the Lord in the camp, much is covered. As each piece of instruction is recorded, one might begin to remember how one of the great challenges of Ancient Israel’s departure from Egypt was their transition into becoming a nation of priests from among a population of slaves.Many of Naso’s instructions were designed to bring an increasing degree of order into the assembly of these people.

As I meditated upon the wide variety of instructions, the significance of the Aaronic Benediction seemed to come to mind the most often—because we do certainly hear it at every Shabbat service. Here, in the midst of discussing a variety of ways to bring a semblance of order into the emerging nation of Israel, the Lord instructed Moses on how to have Aaron and his sons bless the people. Have you ever considered the blessing of having this prayer spoken over you? Let us look at the text.

The Power of the Name

The Aaronic Benediction, appearing in Numbers 6:22-27, states,


Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha.

Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekha.
Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus shall you bless the Israelites. Say to them: May the Lord bless you and guard you. May the Lord light up His face to you and grant grace to you; may the Lord lift up His face to you and give you peace.’ And they shall set My name over the Israelites, and I Myself shall bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27, Alter).
God instructed Moses in a very succinct way on how Aaron and his sons were to bless the people of Israel. If you dig a little bit closer into some of the terms used in this blessing, you might begin to understand how significant it was for them to be spoken over the Israelites. We certainly do see how the Hebrew text is clear about the proper use of the Divine Name of God, and how powerful it can be. The priests were to tell the people that the Lord would: keep them, shine upon them, be gracious to them, lift His countenance upon them, and give them peace. When thinking about this, we might consider the vision of the Prophet Isaiah being taken up into Heaven, seeing the Holy One high and lifted up upon His throne:

“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” (Isaiah 6:1-4).

Recognize that when the Scriptures employ the same word three times—likeqadosh qadosh qadosh (vAdq vAdq vAdq) in Isaiah 6:3—it is probably time for a Bible reader to pay close attention. The Lord is trying to show us something very significant.

In the Aaronic Benediction, the most holy name of God Himself, YHWH/YHVH (hwhy), is spoken over Israel three times—with some tremendous blessings attached. If you read the summary verse at the end of Numbers ch. 6 you are reminded of a great blessing: “Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27, NJPS). Here in this final verse of the prayer (which in the traditional liturgy is often not considered to be a part of the prayer, but only the narrative of Numbers), God describes the fact that His Divine Name will be placed upon the people of Israel.

When I read through Numbers 6:27, it made me think about how important our identification with God truly is, and how He uses His name to bring distinctiveness to His people. The shem (~v) of God often relates to “his reputation, fame…esp. as embodying the (revealed) character of” (BDB, 1028) Him. But as I contemplated this concept, I was reminded of some of the age-old problems associated with the use of the Divine Name of our Creator, and how the enemy has cleverly, and sometimes frequently, made it a cause of division.

Many questions arise in some parts of today’s broad Messianic community because Judaism has historically not pronounced the Divine Name of God. There is no doubt that it is clearly written in the Hebrew texts of the Tanakh. Just looking at these verses in Numbers attests to that reality. The Divine Name of God, YHWH/YHVH (hwhy), appears 6,828 times in the Hebrew Bible. The authors, compilers, or editors of the Tanakh did not have a difficult time declaring who they received their revelation from or the Creator they wished to specifically identify. However, following the Babylonian Diaspora, the Jewish people began to consider the Divine Name so holy that it was to be reserved only for the high priest to speak on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. The Mishnah attests to this tradition:

“And the priests and people standing in the courtyard, when they would hear the Expressed Name [of the Lord] come out of the mouth of the high priest, would kneel and bow down and fall on their faces and say, ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever’” (m.Yoma 6:2).

There was a protocol established in Second Temple times for speaking the Divine Name of God—and those who would speak it out of place could be condemned to death for blasphemy. When reviewing the text of the Apostolic Scriptures, it is clear that Yeshua and the Apostles adhered to this protocol. In the Gospels, Yeshua actually spends more time calling His Father, “Father” or “Abba”—than actually referring to Him as God or Lord. If Yeshua considered not speaking the name YHWH aloud to be an error of the Second Temple Judaism in which His ministry functioned, then there would be plenty of evidence in the Apostolic Scriptures supporting this, including charges of blasphemy against Him for verbalizing the name YHWH. If anything, though, it was Yeshua’s claim of being the “I am”—to actually be YHWH (Mark 14:63; Matthew 26:64-65; Luke 22:71; cf. Exodus 3:14)—that condemned Him to death.

As Messianic Believers who are trying to return to the theology of the First Century Believers, who operated within the context of Second Temple Judaism, we must recognize that while our Heavenly Father has a proper name, it was not used by Yeshua and the Apostles. We must have the same kind of respect for the holiness of the name YHWH that they had. We should not hesitate to use appropriate titles for our Creator such as God or Lord, just as they were employed by Yeshua and the Apostles.

In recent years, some have claimed that the Father is “restoring” the usage of the Divine Name to His people. While this is interesting to consider, in most cases the enemy has gotten into the mix and made the Sacred Name a point of great contention and ultimately division. The Sacred Name sub-sector, not only in demanding widespread usage of the name YHWH, also claims that the English name Jesus errantly derives from “Zeus,” even though the Greek transliteration of Yeshua ([Wvy), Iēsous (Ihsouß), appears throughout the Septuagint—a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible of Jewish origin. Having been in Messianic ministry now for well over a decade, I have had to interact with many Sacred Name Only people, and am sad to report that they have brought a great deal of problems into our young and fledgling Messianic faith community.

Should we not be wiser about the wiles of the Devil, and be better prepared and informed to handle the privilege of being called the people of God? Are we ready to really use His name? Considering all of the division and disrepute the Sacred Name Onlyists have often brought to the Messianic movement, if you use the Divine Name regularly, would it be appropriate to step back for a moment and (re)consider its usage?

I believe we all need to more fully comprehend who the Lord is and how great His love for us actually is, so we can be a people who are really called by and are worthy of His name. Most importantly, we need to understand Him as our Heavenly Father, and have an intimate relationship with Him. May this come quickly as we strive to know Him in deeper and more profound ways!

Click to Outreach Israel Ministries

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Torah Commentary – Emor “Say” – Time for Review – Joined To HaShem

Torah Commentary

Emor “Say”

 seven-feastsbmp

Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Ezekiel 44:15-31

2Corinthians 1-6

 

Time for Review

 Anyone who has read the Torah knows that many commandments and instructions are repeated many times.  The simple reason is that our Creator knows us very well.  He understands the way we think and the way we tend to forget, unless things are repeated and maybe even then.

 In Leviticus 23 we see a review of the Feasts.  Let’s look at each one briefly as a review.

 Shabbat – Because of His work in our lives we should enjoy rest, both spiritual and physical.  We are to cease from endless striving for our redemption.  Yeshua has accomplished this for us and we rest in Him.  We are also to give our bodies physical rest on the Shabbat.

 Passover – We remember the slavery we were once living and celebrate our being set free to live a new life.

 First Fruits – As Yeshua was the first to be raised from the dead, we will also be raised from this life and enter into His likeness.

 Unleavened Bread – Leaven is a type of sin.  We are to be conformed into His sinless image through obedience to His word.

 Pentecost – We celebrate the instructions He has given to us and the Spirit He has placed in us to enable us to walk in those instructions.  The work of Passover in not truly complete until we have been given a new way of life in Torah.

 Feast of Trumpets – Life is a wonderful gift, but we look for a day of complete restoration.  One day the shofar will sound, His family will be gathered into His presence and we will forever be with Him.

 Day of Atonement – While in this life we should “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”  We are to live our lives unto Him, knowing that one day we will all give an account for the way we lived.  On that day we will stand alone, not with friends and family.  On that day it will not matter what anyone else thinks, it will only matter what He knows.

 Tabernacles – The day of final and complete redemption!  The day when all the work of this life will be over.  Sin will have been dealt with for all eternity.  We will be His people and He will be our Elohim!  He will “Tabernacle” in the midst of His people and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.

 You may have noticed the Feasts tend to switch back and forth from the here and now to the hereafter.  I believe there is good reason for this.  The Feasts are another reminder to be like Abraham.  Although he was in this world he was never attached to this world.  He was always looking for a city whose builder and maker was Elohim.  The Feasts should cause us to live this life in fear and reverence of a Holy Creator and to always keep an eye toward the Eastern Sky and eternity.

 With the world situation the way it is today, I am reminded of the Jewish people who lived through the Warsaw ghettos.  When asked if they had kept Shabbat in the ghetto they said, “It is not that we kept Shabbat, but Shabbat kept us.”  I wonder if one day we will be overheard saying that during the tribulation it was not that we kept the Feasts, but the Feasts kept us?

 

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This Weeks Torah Portion – “Blood Life” – Acharei Mot (After the death) – April 19,2013

Acharei Mot (After the death)

Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Ezekiel 22:1-19 (A); 22:1-16 (S)

“Blood Life”

yeshuahighpriest

Just like the double Torah portions of Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33) that are separated for leap year readings, Acharei Mot is usually coupled with the following portion, Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27). Our selection for this week starts out with describing the meticulous requirements the high priest is to perform on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (rWPK ~wy; Leviticus 16:1-34). It is followed by general instruction about sacrificial offerings and blood (Leviticus 17:1-16), and various kinds of inappropriate sexual relations (Leviticus 18:1-30).

The instructions detailing Yom Kippur naturally get your attention in reading Acharei Mot. This observance is stated to be a permanent statute for God’s people, and a special High Sabbath, when people contemplate their humanity by humbling themselves:

This shall be permanent statute [chuqat olam, ~lA[ tQx] for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute” (Leviticus 16:29-31).

Once a year, the Lord really does want His people to think about their sins—both individual and corporate—and what it takes to provide restitution for them. While Believers today might not think that this is really necessary, because we have the blood covering and sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua, there are still things to pray about on Yom Kippur such as those who do not have the blood covering of Messiah Yeshua over their hearts. We can also consider how we ourselves have been maturing, or not, in Him. By fasting and humbling ourselves on this solemn day, we can reflect on where we stand before the Lord, acknowledging those areas before Him in prayer where we need to improve. We can reflect on how the original sacrifice offered at Yom Kippur has now given way to the supreme of sacrifices in what the Son of God has accomplished for us, as is summarized by the Apostles:
·  [B]eing justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Messiah Yeshua; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:24-25).

·  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

·  “[A]ccording to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Yeshua the Messiah and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1:2).

·  “[B]ut if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

If Paul, Peter, and John understood and reflected upon the need for a blood sacrifice to cover sin—with Yeshua’s own blood now permanently covering sin—it is obviously beneficial for us to reflect on what this all means, and what He endured for us on the cross. In this week’s Torah portion, the principle of an animal giving of itself and its blood to cover (temporarily) a human transgression, is articulated:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).

Here, our Heavenly Father explains that an atonement for sin can only be accomplished by the substitution of life-for-life or blood-for-blood. In the Torah, God originally required various animals (cf. Leviticus 17:2) to provide some kind of covering for human sin. Of course, these sacrifices had to be repeated over and over, because an animal sacrifice is incomplete to cover a human sin. When Yeshua finally came and offered Himself up for fallen humanity, a permanent covering became available. In fact, according to the author of Hebrews, Yeshua’s sacrificial work is tied directly to His priestly work, and the inauguration of the age of New Covenant (cf. Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:14-18; and Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27):

But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance…For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves…with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you’ [Exodus 24:8]. And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Messiah did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Messiah also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:11-16, 19-28).

In this passage from Hebrews, the author talks about entrance into the Holy of Holies and the blood that is required to cover sin. He uses the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices as a point of comparison and contrast for the Melchizedekian priesthood and sacrifice of Yeshua. Twice within his treatise, he interweaves the reality of the New Covenant now being available by the Messiah’s work (Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:14-18). Yeshua’s obedience to offer Himself up as the sacrificial Lamb, initiated the permanent atonement and forgiveness promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

“‘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.’”

When you read the Messianic Scriptures, you realize that the Apostles were very much aware of the serious, salvation-historical impact of Yeshua’s death. They understood that His shed blood was critical for the salvation of human beings and the inauguration of the New Covenant and the permanent atonement and forgiveness it entails. By reading their epistles and knowing what parts of the Tanakh they either were quoting from or alluding to, you can conclude that they definitely knew how the New Covenant also involved the Lord writing His Law onto our hearts.

While thinking through this in light of Acharei Mot, it dawned on me that the principles discussed in our Torah portion were also referenced at a crucial and important juncture in the development of the early Body of Messiah. In the early years after the ascension of Yeshua into Heaven, the gospel was going forth in power and people from a diverse array of backgrounds and cultures were coming to knowledge and acceptance of the gospel. A contention arose among the early Believers, because in certain areas as the good news went forth, some of the Jewish Believers demanded that the new, non-Jewish Believers become circumcised as proselytes in order to be considered “saved” (Acts 15:1).

When was the last time you read through Acts 15? From the testimonies we see recorded by Luke, if the controversy over the inclusion of non-Jews as equals into the fledgling ekklēsia was not resolved—it would erupt into a divided Body of Messiah. The non-Jewish Believers were saved the same way as Jewish Believers, by the grace of the Lord Yeshua (Acts 15:11), but not all agreed. The mixed assembly at Antioch, Paul and Barnabas’ hub of operation, seemed to not really have any problems until some highly conservative Jewish Believers from Judea came to make a visit. They insisted that without the non-Jewish Believers becoming ethnic Jews, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1-2). Knowing how the gospel was spreading out into the Mediterranean, a fair-minded solution to a potential crisis would have to be found. Paul and Barnabas are sent to Jerusalem to determine what should be done (Acts 15:3-4). The Jerusalem Council that was convened, was presided over by James, the half-brother of Yeshua, and Peter, who was the first Jewish Believer to share the good news with a non-Jew (cf. Acts chs. 10-11; 15:7-11).

If you follow the proceedings that are described in Acts 15, you will note that James seemed to sit back and listen to the different testimonies and arguments that were presented (Acts 15:7-12), before he issued his ruling. There is no doubt that James understood—as well as many of his contemporaries—that Yeshua had inaugurated the New Covenant with His sacrificial death. James would have certainly known that the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 was to be made with a restored people of Israel, and that God’s salvation was to go forth to the nations. He agrees with the testimony of Peter, and confirms how “God…concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name,” and “With this the words of the Prophets agree” (Acts 15:14-15).

James recognized the Biblical reality that the salvation of the nations was a part of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. A specific Tanakh passage he appealed to was Amos 9:11-12, from this week’s Haftarah selection. This appears within a larger prophecy detailing the restoration of all Israel:

“‘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” (cf. Acts 15:16-18).

There is a noticeable difference with what James says in Acts 15, as Luke narrates his quote with, “so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name” (Acts 15:17). James does not follow the Hebrew text in Amos which reads sh’eirit Edom (~Ada tyrav), but the Septuagint which reads with hoi kataloipoi tōn anthrōpōn (oi kataloipoi twn anqrwpwn). The LXX Jewish translators understood Edom (~Ada) to be connected to adam (~da), the Hebrew word for “mankind, people” (HALOT, 1:14), and they rendered it into Greek as “the remnant of men” (Apostle’s Bible), referring to God’s faithful remnant that would come forth out of humanity’s masses.

James recognizes that by the work of the Messiah, the Tabernacle of David has been rebuilt—representative of the prophetic/charismatic worship ministry that King David had once established (cf. 1 Chronicles 25). Such a ministry was now manifested in the gospel going forth and changing lives, and was going to affect far more than just the First Century Jews. People from the world at large were going to be impacted with the salvation of Israel’s Messiah. And, not only would they come to welcome the gospel, but the Prophets of Israel recognized how they would seek being taught from God’s Torah (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2). Even though there were more details to be considered in the wider selection of Amos 9:7-15, and James makes a specific appeal to “the words of the Prophets” (Acts 15:15)—meaning that there are many more Tanakh passages he could have affirmed—Amos 9:11-12 itself is quite loaded.

The Jewish Apostles and leaders of the early ekklēsia had a great command of the Scriptures. There is every reason to believe that James could have had the entire Torah, and large parts of the Tanakh, memorized. After all, both he and Yeshua grew up in the same home together. Here, Yeshua was instructed, in all truth and righteousness, by His Earthly father Joseph. The other siblings received the same instruction from their Torah obedient parents (cf. Jude 1). As James presided over the Jerusalem Council, listening to all of the arguments made, you will note by his conclusions how three of the four specific things James concludes must be adhered to by the new, non-Jewish Believers, are derived from this week’s Torah portion. While circumcision and proselyte conversion were not required of them for inclusion in the faith community, there were some things that the non-Jewish Believers had to do which were non-negotiable. The decree issued by James was,

“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 15:19-21).

James listed four sinful activities that he knew needed to be immediately stopped in order for the new, non-Jewish Believers to be allowed to come in among Jewish Believers for fellowship and instruction. Three of these restrictions are considered in Acharei Mot, and the fourth is mentioned and further discussed in the next Torah portion, Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27). According to the conclusions agreed upon by those at the Jerusalem Council, the four things that had to be adhered to in order to minimize the possible tension between the Believers included:

1.  Abstinence from pollutions of idols

2.  Abstinence from fornication

3.  Abstinence from things strangled

4.  Abstinence from blood

As the non-Jewish Believers would follow these four prohibitions, each of which is rooted within the Torah, they would be able to fellowship with Jewish Believers. James’ concluding statement in Acts 15:21, “For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat” (CJB), implies that these new Believers would need to be instructed in the godly principles of God’s Torah, accessible at the local synagogue. They would have to submit to some kind of Torah teaching simply to know what the four prohibitions were, and as a result, they would learn more about the kinds of changes that the God of Israel required of them.

These four requirements would help take the pagan culture out of the lives of the new, non-Jewish Believers. In time, as they would become familiar with the Torah’s instructions, these former idol-worshipping pagans would begin to receive further understanding about how God’s Torah is to guide Messiah followers in holiness (cf. Matthew 5:16). By the power of the New Covenant supernaturally writing God’s commandments onto the heart—and not some demand of Torah-keeping for salvation (Acts 15:1, 5)—would the early, non-Jewish Believers learn to appreciate Moses’ Teaching.

What are some of the things these new Believers would learn from the Torah? Simply consider how three of the prohibitions delivered by James are specific negative commandments seen in Acharei Mot (and the fourth is talked about in Kedoshim).

(1) The first, and most obvious of the prohibitions that James issued, regarded the practice of idolatry. In Acharei Mot, the Torah addresses the problem of sacrifices to goat demons, which God commanded the Israelites to stop. In Kedoshim, the idols of molten gods are mentioned. James’ instruction would have prohibited any of the non-Jewish Believers from participating in social and civic events at the local shrine, where people could have conducted business activities, seeking the favor of the gods, or participated in some kind of festal rites. This section of Leviticus, the Torah commands,

“They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations” (Leviticus 17:7).

 

“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:4).

(2) The second admonition from James related to sexual immorality, a major theme of Leviticus ch. 18. While temple prostitution could definitely be in view, a whole host of sexual sins from fornication to adultery to homosexuality and bestiality are included. Acharei Mot lists many vile acts of sexual sin. The consequences of these sins for the Ancient Israelites was ejection from the Promised Land. For Believers, James could have considered violation of these commandments as grounds for excommunication from the assembly:

“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you” (Leviticus 18:24-28).

(3) The third prohibition James issued regarded strangled meats, or animals that were killed by either choking or suffocation, with the specific intent of keeping large quantities of blood coagulated within the meat. He knew how serious the warnings were against consuming blood, as seen in the Torah, as animals killed for human food were to be properly respected (cf. Genesis 9:4). The non-Jewish Believers were expected to eat properly butchered meat, and by implication a kosher-style of diet, for fellowship with Jewish Believers. As our parashah this week details,

“And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people…For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’ When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean” (Leviticus 17:10, 14-15).

While there were many areas of the Torah where the Jewish Believers recognized that the new, non-Jewish Believers would not change instantly—and they needed time—James’ decree in Acts 15:19-21 listed four prohibitions where the Jewish Believers could not be forbearing. Change was required. With the agreement of the others gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), the admonitions of James were made a “standard policy” during the early stages of building the Body of Messiah (Acts 21:25). But, the testimony of the Apostolic Scriptures indicates that such a policy, with just four areas requiring mandated change, was not always easy.

We read later about problems that arose in Corinth from eating meat sacrificed to idols. The Apostle Paul, confronting a Corinthian assembly who had people claiming “Everything is permissible for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV) and committing a wide variety of sins (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1), notes to them: “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). This was pretty serious, not only because they could bring meat sacrificed to idols to fellowship meals—but also because many of the Corinthians were still engaged in the social circle of the pagan temple! The Apostolic decree of Acts 15:19-21 was precisely designed for the non-Jewish Believers to be cut off from the social sphere of the pagan temple, and for them to be associated with their fellow Jewish Messiah followers or at least those who recognized Israel’s One God.

Of all of the things that the new, non-Jewish Believers would have doubtlessly been exposed to, as they began submitting themselves to a weekly hearing of Moses’ Teaching, is the role that blood plays as a covering for sin. They would hear the Torah’s instructions on how animals were to be sacrificed at specific times and in specific ways to provide a temporary atonement for human transgression. This might have been different from the sacrificial offerings made in Greco-Roman temples, often provided to just appease the gods or curry their favor. The non-Jewish Believers, seeing how the Levitical priesthood would have to offer sacrifices over and over again, would hopefully realize how the most important blood shed was that of the Messiah Yeshua. In hearing the Torah read, they would understand how His shed blood offered permanent atonement for all humanity.

Today’s Messianic community has attracted many evangelical Christians wanting to embrace their Hebraic Roots. They are not like the first non-Jewish Believers, who were originally raised in paganism. They already know Messiah Yeshua, and they have a basic idea about the Bible’s morality. But they do need to learn more about the Torah and the Tanakh, in an effort to appreciate why Yeshua has come and died for our sins. We all need to learn to appreciate—non-Jewish and Jewish—why He came and shed His blood for us. For, it is only by His sacrifice, that permanent atonement and forgiveness are truly available! Only by what He has accomplished, can we have eternal life and restored communion with the Father!

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