Torah Commentary – Vayikra – He called – Faithful Confessions – 11 March, 2018

Vayikra – He calledjesus-in-the-synagogue

Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]
Isaiah 43:21-44:23

“Faithful Confessions”

by Mark Huey

In the Book of Leviticus, Torah students get an opportunity to mainly study the sacrificial system, which was formally instituted, to cover the transgressions of human sin. The Ancient Israelites in the desert have just completed the construction of the Tabernacle, and have witnessed God’s glory descend upon the structure. The weight of His presence was so intense, that Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting in order to communicate directly with the Almighty (Exodus 40:34-35).

At the end of the Book of Exodus, Moses’ credibility with the people of Israel was at its pinnacle. The instructions on how to build the Tabernacle, its furniture, and the elements needed for the priesthood, were followed to precision. The result had to be an awesome sight, to these former Egyptian slaves, who were privileged to participate in the construction projects. From a distance, they were all eyewitnesses to the pillar of fire and cloud that was guiding them by night and day.

A Sacrificial System

The main theme of the Book of Leviticus, easily seen from a survey of the text, is that it details the intricacies of the priesthood and sacrificial system, which are to regulate Israel’s national life. Without any significant interruption, it appears that the Holy One, from His new location in the midst of the community, began to address the need for individual atonement for the sins of the people:

“Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting’” (Leviticus 1:1-4).

In these opening verses of Vayikra, we discover that the sacrifices for transgressions are a very personal thing. The one who was guilty of a sin offense was to place his hands on the head of the animal, to transfer his personal guilt to the offering. The animal was then to be personally slayed by the sinner, and Aaron and his sons were to take the blood and disperse it in the appropriate places.

Can you imagine the impact this ceremony would have on you, if you were required to participate in this ritual? If you have ever slaughtered an animal—which the great majority of modern-day people have never done—you might have some understanding of the significance of what was mandatory. But can you visualize actually placing your hands on an innocent animal’s head, with the knowledge that your transgression has required a blood atonement, that (temporarily) returns you to a right relationship with your Creator?

Many of these thoughts are difficult to fathom, but as you read through the the Book of Leviticus, the variety of offerings and their significance for the array of sins of commission and sins of omission, can be overwhelming. It is understandable that many, especially in the past two millennia since the destruction of the Second Temple, have had a tendency to not really comprehend what is being communicated in the Torah about sacrifices. In the post-resurrection era, after all, final atonement for sins has been accomplished in the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (Hebrews 9:2810:10). The propensity for Believers to focus on His atoning work can help us understand why there has not been a great deal of Christian examination of Leviticus. The ability to personalize the gravity of sin and what was required to restore a right relationship with God has been mitigated. Many just claim the “blood of Yeshua” when they transgress God’s Instruction, if they are aware of such commandments.

If we are mature Bible readers, then Torah students should be able to properly value the sacrificial instructions of Moses’ Teaching—even with salvation history having moved forward, with a permanent sacrifice for human sins available.

Personal Confession

Having a greater, conscious awareness of what God defines as sin—is one of the primary reasons why the Lord is inspiring many people to return to a foundational understanding of their faith, through a consistent study of the Torah of Moses. For by actually reading through something like Vayikra this week, and meditating upon the sins that require atonement, a man or woman should certainly be able to analyze areas of his or her life where some “fine tuning” would be appropriate. For who among us is not personally guilty of various sins of commission or omission at times? Consider the following words of the Apostle John:

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

Some have been known to describe 1 John 1:8-10 as a kind of “Christian confessional bar of soap.” If people can acknowledge themselves as fallen sinners, then they can know that they need redemption—something that God is surely faithful to provide! A little further on in the Epistle of 1 John, the Apostle goes on to describe some of the benefits of a true salvation experience for those who have become the children of God:

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:1-10).

We are found to be in Him and abiding in Him—with everything about who we are as people focused on and around the Lord—then we will not sin. The problem is that in our spiritual journey, the sanctification process is not often something instantaneous. We must each learn to abide more and more in Him, and pressing into the Lord must be exercised by our free will and desire to mature.

Where do you stand in the Lord today? Take this one example from Vayikra as a starter in your personal, confessional appraisal:

“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt”(Leviticus 5:1).

Have you ever been in a predicament where you were a primary eyewitness to some sinful circumstances that were being investigated or adjudicated by some authority? This could be a civil or criminal offense, from a minor misdemeanor to felony. Perhaps you did not want to be involved in the investigation or prosecution, because of your relationship to the offender. Or perhaps you were concerned about your potential loss of time. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, you might have justified your decision to disobey this command. On the other hand, by thinking and meditating on many of the different implications from this Torah commandment, you could hopefully become a better corporate citizen to the community where you live—especially when you realize that if you do not come forward as a credible eyewitness, then you will bear the guilt of the offender! Think about this.

But what if you are an employee at a company, and you witness some people stealing some of the company pens and paper for their own personal use? What if the owner of the company asks all the employees to report any known offenders? Are you going to come to the employer and report what you have witnessed? Or are you going to remain silent and bear the guilt of the offender?

On a spiritual level when we witness fellow Believers in sin, there is an admonition that allows us to deal with our brethren in love. In his closing word in his epistle, James gives us a strong encouragement to go to a brother or sister, turning them back to the truth:

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

This strongly parallels some teaching of Yeshua, in terms of approaching someone about a sin committed:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED [Deuteronomy 19:15]. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if he refuses to listen even to the assembly, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

The problem we face, on all of these levels throughout the world, is that most people do not know the ramifications of just this one Torah commandment (Leviticus 5:1). If we understood that the guilt of our lack of performance to testify for the society or company or spiritual groups when we have personal first hand knowledge of offenses falls upon us, then perhaps we would follow the instructions. In so doing, our culture would improve as offenders are duly prosecuted. Companies would avoid the loss of assets from internal theft. Congregations and assemblies would function more righteously, as the “sin in the camp” is properly addressed. Most importantly, those who refuse to confront flagrant sin, that they have personal knowledge about, would not be burdened with the guilt that should rest upon the offender, rather than the one who keeps silent.

If you take the time to reflect on all of the different offerings in our Torah portion, I am confident that you will be able to identify with some of the different sins of commission or omission. Let the indwelling Spirit convict you of where you need to confess, repent, and be restored by His grace. The Holy One of Israel is still building a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), to bring light to all the nations of the Earth (Isaiah 42:6). If you are one of the called out ones, chosen to represent Him in this generation, then it is your responsibility to be holy, because the Lord God is holy (Leviticus 19:2). Do not take this responsibility lightly! (Click to Source)

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Torah Commentary – Vayikra (He Called) – Take Possession – SCRIPTURES FOR March 17, 2017

Torah Commentary
Vayikra (He Called)
Leviticus 1:1-5:26
Isaiah 43:21-44:23
Romans 8:1-13
Hebrews 10:1-14; 13:10-16
Take Possession
This week we begin the book of Leviticus. For many people it is a book of meaningless details, but in truth it is a glimpse into our Father’s Heart. In order to grasp Father’s Heart we must first open our hearts to Him. Let us stop now to invite Him to reveal Himself to us through the entire book of Leviticus. May we not rush through the verses, but meditate on Father’s purposes. As a royal priesthood let us ask, “Is there something more for us written between the lines?”
In Jeremiah 17:9 we read that Father knows our hearts better than we do and declares it to be a very dark place. From previous teachings, we have found this word heart to not be the organ in our chest, but rather our inward man, that part of us which makes us…well, us.
In order to cleanse this inner man an offering was brought to the Tabernacle and presented to the priest. At one level we would understand this as a substitution sacrifice pointing to the complete work of Messiah. Notice in chapter one, verse 4, that the person presenting the offering did not simply leave his sacrifice at the “drop off” door of the Tabernacle. Instead the person brought it to the door for inspection, then led it to the Altar of Sacrifice and laid his hands upon it. He was to cut the throat of the innocent animal, skin it and cut it into pieces. You may wonder what the priest’s role was during that time. They were there to assist, if the person could not go through with the bloody procedure.
What is the message here? Why could the man not just let the priest do the work? After all, that is what they were getting “paid” to do. It was their “job.”
In order for sins to be atoned for the man had to own up to his sin and take possession of it. He could not simply present the offering out of some duty or instruction. Rather, in the act of placing his hands on the animal, he acknowledged it was personal. On a side note, it is recorded that many men could not follow through with the task. When they came to the understanding the guiltless animal was being put to death in their place, reality set in. The priest would then have to intervene and finish the task.
In just a few short days most of us will be celebrating the Feast of Passover. Except for a few people, we do not have sheep or goats to slaughter, “Not Sacrifice”, for our table. We will go to the store, and purchase a nicely wrapped lamb roast for our celebration. When taking the roast out of the package, maybe we will get a few drops of blood on our hands, but it can be quickly washed off without meaning. We were not there when the lamb was slaughtered by a disinterested party. In fact, we can go through our complete Seder and really not think of the price paid for our sin. Caught up in the motions, we may forget the judgment of death we had on our lives and the sacrifice which took place to atone for it. We can just enjoy the meal as we would any other and dream of the chocolate covered matzah at the end. We can, but will we? That is an individual question.
The Torah portion goes on and speaks of various sins and offerings. Notice in Leviticus 5:5 the person is to confess the sin he or she committed. Now I am not saying we should all drive down to the Catholic Church around the corner and sit in the little booth behind a curtain! Instead, I suggest James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
As Passover approaches let us make it a point to not spend all of our time on the outward appearance of which plates and glasses we will use, but look to the “inner part” of the matter, the “Heart” of Passover. Spend some quality time asking Holy Spirit to do a leaven search of your inner man. Take pause before Passover to consider those things which need to be confessed unto Him or to another. Make amends with those you may have offended. If you are serving lamb, take a moment before your knife cuts the meat to think of the man instructed in Leviticus to take a knife, not just to the piece of roast on the plate, but to the throat of the innocent animal before him. Spend a quiet moment considering the lamb before you and the work done in our place by Messiah. Let us celebrate this season with clean hands and a pure heart! His Great Love willingly paid a high price for us!
As a last note, rabbinic writings state a principle I would like to expound on. If a man brought an offering but did not bring his own inner man of repentance and humility, the offering meant nothing. It was as if he were not honoring the One the offerings were looking to and would harden him to the true message. We could see then that his last state would be worse than his first state for he had not drawn closer to Yah, but closer to spiritual death. Could this be the same message Saul (Paul) was speaking in 1 Corinthians 11:23-32? You read it and judge. Judge of your own life that is! (Click to Source)
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Torah Commentary – Vayak’hel (He assembled) , – P’kudei (Accounts) – Form and Function; Meet Purpose – SCRIPTURES FOR March 10, 2017

Are you a tent or a dwelling place for the Almighty?
Torah Commentary
Vayak’hel (He assembled), – P’kudei (Accounts)


Exodus 35:1-40:38
1Kings 7:13-26
2Corinthians 9:1-15
Hebrews 9:1-14
Revelation 11:1-13
Form and Function; Meet Purpose
The Golden Calf was quite the setback for the Hebrews. I wonder what conversations were going on in the camp during those first few days after the incident. Was Israel wondering how much grace and mercy this Elohim had to give? Did their sin exceed His measure of forgiveness? Was He going to wash His hands of them and replace them with another people? Would He give their calling to the new guys? The reason I believe these questions were part of their camp is because I hear these same questions amongst the people in our camp today.
The golden calf incident was truly one of the most momentous sins Israel committed. Their choice brought death on many levels. Because Israel repented and moved on, Yah could have decided not to put this incident in Scripture so we would not know about it. I for one am so thankful He revealed it, because it gives me hope on a personal and national level. It is a reminder when I, or we fail, the event is not too great to be forgiven. He gives us the Way to get back up and move on.
Move on they did. It seems there must have been a renewed focus in the camp motivated by experiencing Father’s revelation of Himself. This revelation gave them new purpose and drive. May we see this same renewal in our day! Moshe put out a new call asking Israel to give. He was overwhelmed with their response. I see this as a shadow of a verse in Psalm 110 which translates “In the day of your power your people will willingly give themselves.”
I have seen this principal of giving played out in people many times through the years. As a pastor many years ago, I saw it in my congregations and in congregations I travel to, a heart of giving from those who are focused on Him. You don’t have to badger someone to give or to work when a person is experiencing and in relationship with Yah. These are the folks who get involved. So the simple message of this is, if you are around people who are not involved, exalt Him and watch the changes.
The day came that the fruit of their labor building the Tabernacle was complete to behold. An amazing sight was before them. The Tabernacle, the garments, it was all there, built exactly as the pattern had been given to Moshe. Exodus 39:43 is an awesome verse to me. It proves to me that a group of imperfect people are able to come together and accomplish a major task given to them to do. Can you sense the awe of the people as they stood and gazed upon their accomplishment? Moshe is so overwhelmed and pleased; he is inspired to speak a blessing over them. Many believe Psalm 90 to be his words he spoke over the people.
Before the people is the earthly realm mirror image of the Tabernacle in the Heavenly realm. (Hebrews 8:5) Well, not exactly. There was something missing that the Hebrews had no control over; Yah’s presence dwelling in the Tabernacle. At this point in time it is still a tent. It is an elaborate tent, but just a tent. It had form and function, but its purpose was not fully revealed. Go back to Exodus 25. What was the purpose of the Tabernacle? It was to be a tent Yah could dwell in. His presence is what changed the status of the tent into His dwelling place. We find in Exodus 40:34 is where form, function and purpose are fully manifest.
Today the world is full of people with form and function. Churches, Synagogues and congregations are filled with form and function. But does form and function change the person’s life or only affect the person’s life? Let me explain. Form and function can affect us outwardly in the way we dress, what we choose to eat, what days we take off from work, our language and even the naming of our children, but does form and function change a person inwardly? I say not really. Form and function can only change a person if the two lead us to purpose.
When the presence of HaShem came into the tent it took form and function into the level of purpose. The same should be true and happening in our lives. The form and function of our life in a “Yeshua focused Torah” should bring forth His presence. What we do needs to be the catalyst for welcoming Him to change our earthly realm tents into Heavenly realm Tabernacles for him to dwell in. This transformation makes us the mirror of the Heavenly for people to witness. Our lives then inspire in others the desire to seek Yah and allow their form and function to become His purpose. This is the purpose of being in relationship with Him and having the revelation of HaShem for all to see! So I leave you with a question to prayerfully consider, “Are you a tent or a dwelling place for the Almighty?” (Click to Source)

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Torah Commentary – Ki Tisa – When you take – Faith Contrasted – 25 February, 2018

Ki Tisa – When you take


Exodus 30:11-34:35
1 Kings 18:1-39 (A); 18:20-39 (S)

“Faith Contrasted”

by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, is perhaps best remembered for the infamous golden calf incident. Because of this, it is significantly easy to overlook a variety of other details, ranging from the required half-shekel offering,[1] the anointing oil formula,[2] a description of the skilled artisans,[3] reminders about the Sabbath,[4] appeals to the Lord and His response including a description of Himself,[5] and a return to the mountain to receive yet another set of instructions after the first tablets were shattered at the base of the mountain.[6] The differences between how Moses handled his responsibility, versus how Aaron and a certain segment of the Israelite population, impatiently rebelled, is difficult to ignore (Exodus 32:1-10, 19-35). Recorded for future generations to ponder is the human proclivity that is prone to wander away from the Creator. Nevertheless, some benefits for His people accrue, as incredible insight into the essence and attributes of the Holy One are communicated to Moses, as he implored the Lord for mercy (Exodus 33:19; 34:6-7). Thankfully, because the Lord has an ultimate plan for His Creation, this potential deviation from following Him is averted, but not without commensurate punishment for the malefactors.

However, before getting into some of the details about consequences of false worship, it is critical to note that our Torah reading initially delineates more instruction about what the Lord expects from His chosen people. In our previous Torah portion, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10), the Lord had communicated considerable detail about the high priest, the institution of the priesthood, and its respective duties for service in association with the Tabernacle. But now as Ki Tisa continues the record in the Book of Exodus, there is the imperative that individual responsibility is expected of all the people of Israel:

“The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, ‘When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves” (Exodus 30:11-16).

In this instruction, it is noted that a wide segment of the Israelite community, regardless of its financial wherewithal, was required to make a contribution. The blessing of compliance to this was an avoidance of plagues. The essential principle established by this instruction was that every person would be responsible for his own actions. While such a “ransom” was useful to conduct a census, the Lord was requiring Ancient Israel to literally entrust its wealth to those responsible for continually ministering unto Him. In some regards, this foreshadows a similar principle enunciated by Yeshua the Messiah, when He was telling His followers about where they should direct their resources:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

From the census instructions is witnessed another principle that applied originally to the Levitical priesthood, but now is applicable to a wider community of God’s people. This was the requirement that in order to appropriately minister to the Lord or approach Him, one should do so in a state of cleanliness, respecting the sanctity of presenting oneself before Him as the Holy One:

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations” (Exodus 30:17-21).

This basic principle, of cleanliness before the Lord, was expanded upon by King David, as he had the privilege of approaching His presence after the Tabernacle was relocated to Mount Moriah. Note the reverence and awe emoted in this Psalm, which takes the concept of clean hands to a much higher level, as it concerns the need for a pure heart:

“A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah” (Psalm 24:1-10).

From the opening verses of Ki Tisa, the Lord communicates some universal principles regarding individual responsibilities, and how He wants people to approach Him. So while contemplating the balance of this reading, it will be personally edifying for us to reflect upon just how well we are accepting our individual duties before the Lord and how we are seeking Him. If our hearts are focused on the things of this world, or we have impurities impeding our relationship with Him—perhaps this would be an appropriate time for us to confess our transgressions. For in further reading, we will not only discover how the Lord deals with idol worship, but most crucially that He is a compassionate and merciful God who is slow to anger. He is surely willing to forgive those who faithfully come to Him with a broken spirit and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Idol Worship

Once the issues of personal responsibility and properly approaching the Holy One are addressed, we see various instructions about the fragrant anointing oil with some prohibitions about its usage, a brief description about the artisans designated to make the Tabernacle and the elements of priestly, and a reminder about the importance of remembering the Sabbath rest (Exodus 30:22-31:18). After this, Ki Tisa turns to focus on the tragic golden calf incident. The Israelites were unaware that Moses was receiving two tablets with the testimony of God etched by His own finger, on what would be his first ascent of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16-18). But being accustomed to his role as mediator, while viewing from a distance the glory of the Lord like a consuming fire in a cloud shrouding the mountaintop, some became frightfully anxious about his lengthy absence. At this relatively early stage in the desert sojourn, it is safe to say that the faith of the Ancient Israelites was being tested.

After a number of weeks, a segment of the impatient population turned to Aaron, the designated leader in Moses’ absence, and they made an idolatrous request of Aaron to make a tangible “god” which they could follow. In much of the Ancient Near East, the bull was a symbol of lordship, leadership, strength, vital energy, and fertility—and was either deified and worshipped, or used to represent fertility. Aaron complied with their demand. Ironically, not yet aware of the silver half-shekel requirement that was to be instituted, Aaron without any apparent resistance to this unfaithful appeal, perhaps fearing for his own life, asked the people to donate their gold jewelry for the fashioning of a molten calf:

“When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 31:18-32:6).

It is difficult to fathom why Moses’ older brother Aaron succumbed to this demand. After all, Aaron had been with Moses from the very beginning of his role as deliverer of Israel, being used as the spokesperson (Exodus 4:14-16) for the inarticulate Moses. Aaron had witnessed all the miracles, from the courts of Pharaoh to an intimate Mount Sinai dinner with the Holy One (Exodus 24:9-11). Aaron’s personal involvement in, or observation of, the Lord’s activities, required him to know that the Lord forbade the making of idols (Exodus 20:3-4). Yet, because of either social pressure or the threat of physical harm, Aaron not only requested the gold jewelry, but he also fashioned the golden calf—even though he later protested to Moses that the golden calf simply emerged from the fire (Exodus 32:24). Aaron’s direct participation and culpability, for these idolatrous acts, were later confirmed during Moses’ reiteration of these events in the Book of Deuteronomy. Apparently, the Lord was about to execute judgment on Aaron, but Moses interceded for him:

“The LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time” (Deuteronomy 9:20).

In studying the incident of the golden calf in a variety of Torah commentaries, one discovers different interpretations found in assertions made by the Jewish Sages, which in various degrees are intended to provide excuses for Aaron’s actions.[7] Whether it is blaming the idol worship on the non-Israelite “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) that departed Egypt, or avoiding the threat of death, Aaron was involved in the sin and still bore some guilt.

In this instance, upon the delay of Moses’ return from the mountain, the people insisted that Aaron “make a god” to go before them. The proper, faithful reaction, would have been to refuse the request regardless of the consequences. But this is not what Aaron did. Instead, because Aaron complied with their demands, when the golden calf was presented to Israel, the people actually declared that this “god” had brought them out of Egypt! How absurd this exclamation must have been to Aaron, and many within the crowds who had escaped bondage in Egypt—but such sentiments were enough to prevent a wide number from wanting to worship their new deity. We see a classic example of mixing the holy with the profane, and Aaron should have known better. This is a vivid reminder to Messiah followers today, how it is possible for anyone—including designated leaders—to have a lack of, or lose faith, and fall into error.

Several centuries later, history would repeat itself. When King Solomon died, and his realm was split in two, King Jeroboam of the newly established Northern Kingdom resorted to this same practice of fashioning golden calves. His intention was to divert worship from the Lord in Jerusalem, to the false gods set up in Bethel and Dan, so there would be no demand for reunification with the Southern Kingdom:

“So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.’  He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:28-31).

Apparently, these people did not learn their lesson from the golden calf incident that their ancestors had participated in, and were beguiled by a desperate leader to worship false idols. This should be a warning alarm to all who currently follow the One True God, especially in light of another spoken word. Yeshua the Messiah spoke the following, per the days that would transpire prior to His return:

“And Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Messiah,” and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:4-5).

In a similar manner to Aaron invoking the name of the Most High for a feast before a false idol, there are going to be some teachers or leaders who come via the guise of proclaiming Yeshua in some way—but in reality will be misleading people, unable to discern the mixing of the holy and profane. This is why it is imperative that the faithful followers of Yeshua invest the time to truly understand the ways of the Lord in His Word, so that they may avoid being deceived. In the case of the Ancient Israelites in this week’s Torah reading, the result of false idol worship was a devastating death:

“Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies—then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.”’ So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day” (Exodus 32:25-28).

The golden calf incident is one of the main examples to be considered from the Torah, as warnings have been issued to all of God’s people throughout the ages (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11-14). So, as today’s Messianic Believers study the Torah and consider its applications elsewhere, in the Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures, the multiple warnings that have been issued by God need to be heeded. The fact that every person is individually accountable for his or her own relationship with the Lord—and that people are required to approach Him with cleans hands and pure hearts—should make true worshippers more discerning when tempted by misguided leaders or false teachers.

God’s Merciful Solution

Thankfully, this Torah portion also establishes a foreshadowing of the arrival of the Messiah, often in how a mediator has to bridge the gap between the Eternal and humanity at large. In Ki Tisa, we see how Moses intervened on behalf of the Ancient Israelites, pleading before the Holy One for mercy to be shown to them:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation. Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, “With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth”? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:7-14).

It is notable in this passage that the Lord’s first inclination upon speaking to Moses about the rebellious acts of the obstinate Israelites was to eradicate the Ancient Israelites, and to start over with Moses to make a great nation. In capacity as mediator, Moses immediately questioned the Lord’s statement, by reminding Him of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then in a statement that has raised eyebrows for centuries, the text states that the Lord “changed His mind.” This passage illustrates for Bible readers, how the role of a mediator before the Father, is ultimately consummated in the atoning work of the Son. He is currently seated at His right hand, interceding:

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Messiah Yeshua is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33-34).

Additionally, while noting the critical role of a mediator in God’s plan for the ages, our Torah portion also goes on to reveal some magnificent attributes about Him. After God’s justice is executed by the Levites (Exodus 32:28), Moses still wanted to know more about the One he served. Noting that he had found favor in the sight of the Lord, Moses wanted to know not only the ways of the Lord, but know Him in a more intimate way:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people!” But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’  But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:12-23).

In this compelling passage, Moses was able to observe some of the glory of the Lord passing by, with only His “back” viewable. In the course of this interaction, the Lord noted that He was gracious and compassionate. This brief description of the mercy of God was followed by a much more complete explanation, after Moses was commanded to return to the mountain with two new tablets. Now, rather than the Lord exclusively producing the stone tablets, the responsibility of mortals to be involved, in the process of receiving the commands, is noted. But beyond the principles communicated, the Lord expanded upon the description of Himself that eloquently detailed His mercy and forgiveness:

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’ Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. He said, ‘If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you’” (Exodus 34:5-10).

The Almighty Creator God is the epitome of love. In all other Ancient Near Eastern societies, when the people worshipping a god or goddess would demonstrate disloyalty—their mythologies describe how great catastrophe and penalties would often immediately come—perhaps by them destroying the nation. Here in the Torah, we do not see this. We see the great disloyalty of the Ancient Israelites who worshipped the golden calf, and the significant restraint of God’s judgment upon His chosen ones.

Faith Contrasted

Ki Tisa commences by emphasizing individual responsibility and accountability for Ancient Israel, with the admonition that approaching the Holy One requires a cleanliness before Him that is more than just physical. It continues with a vivid reminder that faithless impatience can result in following after false idols, and even infect those who are placed in positions of leadership. But the teaching and parallel readings also illustrate that a loving and merciful God will respond to the pleas or actions of a mediator, as was the case when Moses’ pleadings for God’s mercy on Aaron were heeded.

As we each read and reflect upon our parashah for this week, it is crucial to recognize that people are ultimately going to be held accountable for their actions, before a holy and righteous Creator God. But will you be evaluated for punishment, or for the dispersement of rewards for your good works? Many are susceptible to a lack of faith, impatience, impure thoughts, a lack of discernment, and a bevy of iniquities that can seriously impede our relationship with the Holy One of Israel. Hence, it is beneficial to frequently go before the Lord—if and when any thoughts or actions disrupt the blessing of intimate fellowship with Him. The beloved Apostle John honestly described the need for those called into the light of truth, to faithfully confess whatever sin might darken the soul:

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but 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. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:6-10).

May we all forever embrace this eternal truth! (Click to Source)

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[1] Exodus 30:11-16.

[2] Exodus 30:22-33.

[3] Exodus 31:1-11.

[4] Exodus 31:12-18.

[5] Exodus 32:11-14; 33:12-23.

[6] Exodus 34:1-35.

[7] Cf. Nosson Scherman, ed., et al., The ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition, 5th ed. (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000), 495; Nahum M. Sarna, “Exodus,” in Etz Hayim, 531.

Torah Commentary – Ki Tisa – Basin of Revelation – SCRIPTURES FOR March 3, 2017

Torah Commentary – Ki Tisa
Exodus 30:11-34:35
1Kings 18:1-39
Luke 11:14-20
Acts 7:35-8:1
1Corinthians 10:1-13
2Corinthians 3:1-18
Basin of Revelation
Between the Altar of Sacrifice and the entrance to the Tabernacle tent was a basin of water. It is fascinating we are not told what it looked like. I have seen many depictions through the years. I do not know which one, or if any of them, are right. The greatest message though is not in what it looked like, but in the fact we are not given dimensions concerning this basin, or laver. To bring forth the reason for the possible lack of description we must consider its meaning. The placement of the laver gives us a hint as it is between the Altar of Sacrifice (a place which is a shadow of our redemption) and entering into His Presence. The Laver speaks of the written Word, which gives us the protocol of entering, which I wrote of last week. We could see the laver and the water it holds the same as a Bible in your hand. The bronze metal can be likened to the cover and the pages which hold the ink the words are written on.
Before we talk about the lack of dimensions, we have something else to think about the Laver. It is the standard of purity we must have to walk forward into His presence. Inside the laver were mirrors. As a person was looking at his reflection in the mirrors he would be looking through the purity of the water of the Word. Have you ever tried that, looking at your mirror through the purity of His Word? Ever come up short?
When the priest washed his hands in the Laver after a sacrifice his hands were bloody. The blood and the water would mingle in the Laver. It is the blood from the Altar of Sacrifice or should we say the One placed upon the altar which raises us to the standard of the water of the Laver.
Now for the possible reason why there were no dimensions given for the laver. It is a very simple message pointing to the fact His Word has no dimensions. Process this for a moment. When is the last time you saw something “new” in Scripture? Not to be judgmental, but if it has been more than a week you may need to consider your reading habits! Truth is there is nothing “new” in Scripture. It has always been there, we just did not see it until it was time for it to be revealed to us. When Truth is revealed to us we are now responsible to walk in the revelation.
With this thought we proceed to the golden calf. In Exodus 20 they had been told to not have any other god before Him and to not make an image of a god. Consider that if Aaron and the people had made this image prior to the revelation of these words, they may not have been judged so harshly by them. Yah is just and merciful. There are consequences for violating His principles, however, when we do not know them, Yah’s great mercy often prevails to either cancel or lesson the severity of the consequences. For example, I start a new job. I’m given a grace period to learn the responsibilities of the position. Mistakes made are not overlooked, but the consequences may not be as severe or even forgiven because I may not know what’s required.
We have to remember though Yah’s Word is eternal and in effect whether we know it or not! If we aren’t held accountable by His Truth then there we would be no need for Yeshua’s Blood or our repentance. When we first encounter Yeshua we begin to understand and recognize how we have transgressed His Word. We deserve the death penalty! We have opportunity to trust Him and repent which annuls the penalty making our slate clear. Now that’s something to celebrate!
Aaron created a manmade way to enter into Yah’s presence. Israel had already been given the instructions on entering His Presence. They understood the guidelines and violated them. There was no ignorance on their part. Their choice did not work out well for them that day. It doesn’t work well in today’s world either! May this inspire us to follow His Word and not our own ideas!
The golden calf would be recorded as one of the greatest sins of the Hebrews. That sin would in the end lead us to one of the greatest revelations of who YH VH is in Exodus 34:6-7. The sin would bring forth an opportunity for grace to abound toward those who would turn from their sin, repent and return to Him. Maybe some would say the sin of the calf was a good thing, for it brought forth a greater revelation of Yah? Is this the attitude Paul was trying to overcome in Romans 6:1?
The blood mixing with the water in the laver was not to be looked at as a license for golden calves, but rather the power to overcome golden calves. Today, the blood has never lost its power! Yeshua’s blood overcomes the golden calf images that separate us from Him!
Before the people could move on, the calf was ground into a fine powder and placed into water for them to drink. Powdered gold in water would have turned the water a reddish color, a picture of the blood and water in the Laver. I wonder if only those who were given to repentance on that day were the ones to drink? Was Aaron the first in line? Is this the reason the leader of the calf incident was not killed in the judgement for the calf incident? Were the ones who died that day the ones who refused to drink the “blood” and were judged by the water? Selah! (Click to Source)

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Torah Commentary – Tetsavah (You Are To Order) – Protocol – SCRIPTURES FOR February 24, 2017

Torah Commentary – Tetsavah (You Are To Order)
Exodus 27:20 – 30:10
Ezekiel 43:10-27
Philippians 4:10-20
Last year I was given the honor of speaking at the “Trail of Tears” in Tennessee. It was there that I began to see the Tabernacle as the protocol for entering into the Creator’s presence. That revelation has affected the way I look at these chapters of Sh’mot in numerous ways. For someone who has taught on the Tabernacle for many years I have received a new appreciation. With that being said, I have to admit something. As much as I love the revelation of the Tabernacle, the garments of Aaron bog me down a bit. It is not that I see this as unimportant in any way, but I have not taken the time to delve into this like I have the Tabernacle.
Now that I have put myself out there as a target of lack of study on this topic, allow me to expound on what I do see. First of all, Aaron and his sons were not to approach in any old way. They were not to go to their closet the morning of their duty unto Yah and select anything off the rack that looked comfortable. No matter how their week or day was going, they were to “put on” the garments of righteousness before they began. Let’s stop right there for a moment. Before I go any further, I am not suggesting that we go back to the days of three piece suits and ties. I totally agree with a friend who said that he doubted the sanity of whoever came up with the idea of putting something around the neck of a man that would cut off even more oxygen to his brain. But just how do we come before Him? I had to face this myself as recent as last night.
Kathy and I had been out and came home just about dark. I came in and changed my shirt for a Carhartt t-shirt that I had been wearing that day while working on my truck. It had a few paint spots and an extra hole or two. You know the real comfortable ones! I knew it was the night of the New Moon so we went out on the porch. I looked up, saw the moon, sounded the shofar and we sang the shema. We then came back inside to give thanks for the previous month and say our blessings. Before I began to read from the siddur Kathy said, “So you dressed up for the occasion?” I did not say anything, but I have to admit when she said those words I knew she was not speaking on her own. I will still be leaving my ties in the closet, but next month they will have the company of my comfortable Carhartts.
Another part of the garments which really speaks to me are the names and representation of all the tribes upon his shoulders and the breastplate. When Aaron walked into the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle, he was not walking alone, but was carrying the “Whole House of Israel” with him. As he entered, Israel entered. Consider this in light of the numerous verses which reveal Yeshua as sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. The picture Aaron presented is revealed in Ephesians 2:6, as the whole house of Israel is presently seated with and in Messiah in unity before the Father. May the natural house follow suit and line up with the spiritual house!
The above picture brings in the word intercession. In Sh’mot 30 we are given just five verses concerning the Altar of Incense. As we consider its function we see it as a place of intercession and worship. It is a place of mysterious beauty as we can imagine the smoke transcending not only the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies and the courtyard, but reaching into each tent in the camp. This teaches us that intercession, whether it is His for us or ours for others, has no boundaries. It can reach to the most hidden cracks of a life.
One more point to ponder concerning the Altar of Incense. Remember that the Earthly Realm Tabernacle is a mirror of the Spiritual Realm Tabernacle. Take a moment to read Revelation 8:1-5. Yes, your prayers, your worship, your intercession are pictured here as incense which one day will be poured upon the altar. Those prayers you have been praying, but have not seen answered. Maybe they are just being stored for the right day and time! (Click to Source)
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Torah Commentary – T’ruma (Contribution) – That They May be One – SCRIPTURES FOR February 17, 2017

Torah Commentary – T’ruma (Contribution)


Exodus 25:1 – 27:19
1Kings 5:26 – 6:13
Hebrews 8:1-6; 9:23-24; 10:1
That They May be One
The building of the Tabernacle begins with the receiving of an offering. This in itself is interesting as it had not been many days since the Hebrews left the abject poverty of slavery to amazing riches from the plunder of their neighbors. At some point, they must have wondered just why they had all of this stuff. More on that thought in a bit.
Moshe calls for the people to give, they gave. He called for the people to work, they worked. The next chapters of Sh’mot will give the instructions of turning their acquired “stuff” into a dwelling place for the Almighty to reside in their midst. The thought of that sends my imagination in a multitude of directions.
The next few chapters are filled with great detail. For many people it is easy to get lost in these details and forget about the message. This is especially true when we look at the words in English where we see the word “and” used over and over. In English we are likely to eventually read the verse and not even see that little “and” as it is used so many times. Doing this will cause us to miss one of the most important messages of the Tabernacle.
To look at the verses in Hebrew we would not see the word and, but rather the letter vav. This letter brings forth an amazing message. The letter vav is likened to and even translated at times as a hook. It is what connects the Tabernacle together and makes it echad or one. Simply put, the Tabernacle is not to be looked at as separate pieces which are joined together to become one house, but rather as a single house consisting of joining pieces. Yep, go back over that one a few times. Let me say it a bit different. The Tabernacle is a single revelation of Yah dwelling in our midst through joining revelations. This is the Hebrew way of looking at the Tabernacle.
What is the revelation of the Tabernacle? It is a journey of redemption upon the altar leading us to His Word upon the laver, His Light through the Menorah, His provision and our sustenance in the Shewbread, His intercession leading us to worship at the altar of incense. We conclude with the purpose of it all, to stand in awe before Him as redeemed and free people.
What if we were to look at the Tabernacle through a Greek mindset? To do this we would first change the word “and” into the word “but.” Hebrew mindset joins all things into one, while Greek thinking separates and partitions everything. Consider the difference between thoughts, joining vs. separating! For now there is a greater message to look at.
Think about what it would have been like to stand before Moshe and hear his call for an offering. You and your family, until recent days, have only known a life of slavery. As far back as you can remember life has been a struggle of getting by day to day. Your earliest memories were those of long days of work, never quite enough food to go around. You haven’t allowed yourself to imagine what it would be to have anything more than “almost” enough for you and your family. This has all changed now. For the first time in your life your belly is full. Your children do not have hunger pains. Your thirst is totally quenched by this unending flow of water from a rock. You even took the first day off that you have ever had and called it Shabbat. To top all this off, you have a wagon full of gold, silver, cloth and other items you haven’t had time to sort through. All of this stuff your neighbors had given you before leaving Egypt. But then there is this guy Moshe standing in front of you asking for an offering. What do you do?
I can imagine the questions which would go through a person’s mind at a time like this. Such things as “How long will this trip take, where are we going, will there be work when I get there, what is the price of housing, new clothes for the children, education, retirement  and by the way, just what is this Moshe guy going to use this stuff for in the first place?” The list would go on and on as you would stand looking at Moshe questioning the stuff, Moshe, the stuff.
How do I know this? It is the same reaction we have today when we are given provision and a choice of what to do with it.
This past weekend I was in Tulsa OK. I was sitting talking to a friend and he reached in his wallet to show me a small picture he had found which had great meaning to him. When he opened his wallet he saw a five dollar bill. He pulled it out of his wallet and said, “How did that get there, I didn’t have any money with me.” Without hesitation or the batting of an eye, he handed it to another friend in the room and said, “I guess it was placed there to give to you.” My other friend’s reaction was to hand the money to me and say, “Bless Israel!” I did not react at the moment, but the scene keeps going over in my mind. Here were two people when given an unexpected blessing just gave it away as though it was not theirs in the first place. I am humbled and challenged by these two men.
What do we do when confronted with unexpected blessings? Do we already have a list in our heads of where they would go? Is that list more about blessing ourselves or blessing others? I know. I have gone to meddling. Truth is I am making myself as uncomfortable as I am probably making you!!
Consider as we read through the next few weeks in Sh’mot. Every connecting item in the Tabernacle was given by an individual or family. When they looked upon it in the end, could many of them see the item they had given? Could the sight of their item next to their neighbors help them to understand not only was the Tabernacle to be looked upon as a single message, but Israel as a people were to be looked upon as a single message as well? Dwell on that one for a while as you keep putting off reading the “ands”. (Click to Source)
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TorahScope – Torah Reading – Mishpatim -Rulings – “Faithfully Do” – 4 February, 2018

Mishpatim – Rulings


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)

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

Torah Commentary – Mishpatim (Rulings)


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

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Torah Reading – TorahScope – Outreach Israel Ministries – Yitro – Jethro – “Blind Faith” – 28 January, 2018

Yitro – Jethro


Exodus 18:1-20:23[26]
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6[6-7] (A); 6:1-13 (S)

“Blind Faith”

by Mark Huey

The trials and tribulations of Ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egypt continue in this week’s Torah reading, with particular emphasis on the Ten Commandments that are received while the people were encamped at Mount Sinai. After observing the many miracles performed by God to free them from the bondage of Egyptian slavery—including the ten plagues, the cloud and pillar of fire, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptian army, making bitter water potable, provision of manna and quail, providing water from a rock, and defeating the Amalekites—the Israelites were definitely in awe of the power of their God. By experiencing and witnessing these visible, and in many respects, tangible acts of punishment, provision, and protection—Israel was prepared to do whatever the Lord declared, before even knowing what He was going to require. Accordingly, one might conclude that the people were finally at a point where they exhibited a “blind faith,” willing to follow the instruction of the Lord regardless of the outcome.

Jethro’s Counsel

Before the dramatic encounter with the Almighty, where the Ten Commandments would be issued, we are told about the wisdom imparted to Moses by his father-in-law Jethro. The importance of establishing a reasonable way to judge circumstances within the camp of Israel was proposed by Jethro. Jethro recognized that the people were relying solely on the judgment of Moses to resolve disputes. With thousands of people, and all of the problems that might ensue from human interaction, it was obvious to Jethro that Moses needed to delegate some responsibility to other leaders. These would be individuals who feared God, knew the truth, and hated dishonest gain:

“It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.’ So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land” (Exodus 18:13-27).

From the insertion of this encounter with Jethro, juxtaposed between the first few months of the deliverance from Egypt and the reception of the Decalogue, it is reasonable to conclude that God was concerned about an orderly means for Ancient Israel to govern itself. God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). What is seen here in Yitro would later be integrated into many different judicial systems throughout the world. Note that Jethro still advised Moses to remain Israel’s representative before God, with the admonition to teach the statutes and laws of God. Moses did not relinquish his role as a mediator before the Holy One, but he did not need to have to be burdened with every single issue that might have arisen among the people.

 Preparing to Receive the Decalogue

After the departure of Jethro, our Torah portion turns to one of the most incredible events ever recorded in human history. The Creator God descended from Heaven and spoke the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel gathered at the base of Mount Sinai. But before this dramatic encounter occurred, the Lord had some extraordinary words for Moses to communicate to them:

“Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 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’” (Exodus 19:3-6).

Here the Almighty summoned Moses to the mountain to hear this declaration, so that he would share it with Israel. In some opening remarks, God reminded Moses about what He had done to the Egyptians, and how He personally protected the Israelites during their deliverance from slavery and along the path they were traversing. Obviously, there was no need for the Ancient Israelites to take any credit for being at a place of relative safety from their enemies.

There are then some incredible words, which should bring both comfort and awe to each of us who read or hear these words today. In order to be regarded as God’s possession among all the peoples, and be considered a kingdom of priests and a holy nation—Israel was to obey Him. While on the surface, obeying God might sound somewhat doable, especially given anticipated blessings—but what we obviously discover from the remainder of too much of the Torah and Tanakh is that Israel inevitably failed over and over to obey. However, at this particular time in the history of Israel, given the preponderance of recent miracles and deliverance from enemies, and what could be considered a “blind faith,” the Israelites collectively responded to this proposition with a resounding affirmation:

“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. 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. 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. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.” When the ram’s horn [shofar, CJB] sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.’ 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 19:8-15).

Whether this positive response to do all that the Lord would speak, even before He had spoken it—from all the people of Israel—was a reflection of their awe for what the Lord had just done, or whether it was really just enthusiasm being caught up in the moment, the fact is there was a genuine desire of the Ancient Israelites to obey the Lord. Their response must have pleased Him. Yet, immediately following this the Lord began to relay to Moses some warnings about what was to be expected when He would descend upon Mount Sinai. The Lord wanted His people to hear His voice, but He knew that a certain amount of personal consecration was required in order to be prepared to hear Him speak.

Instruction came forth so that, for a three-day period, the people would consecrate themselves through washings and separation from sexual contact. A prohibition about even touching the mountain was included, to keep the people from defiling it before the Holy One descended. Eventually a blast from a ram’s horn would signal that they could approach the base of the mountain, but still not touch it. God was very concerned about protecting the people from their over zealousness to approach the mountain. When God did finally descend to Mount Sinai, it was accompanied with great thunder and lightning:

“So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 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. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.’ Moses said to the LORD, ‘The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, “Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.”’ Then the LORD said to him, ‘Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, or He will break forth upon them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them” (Exodus 19:16-25).

This must have been an awesome sight to behold. After three days of being consecrated for the event, Israelites were gathered by Moses at the base of the mountain, as it turned ominously dark. A cloud descended, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and a trembling quake of the whole mountain. Then as the trumpet sounded, the Lord actually responded to the warning signal by thundering back, and calling Moses to join Him at the top of the mountain. It is difficult to imagine what this must have been like—despite a few attempts by motion pictures like The Ten Commandments or Prince of Egypt to try to portray it.

If you have ever been in a hurricane, coupled with an earthquake, while a tornado is raging by, with lightning lighting up the sky, as you gazed upon a fire blasting volcanic like smoke in the distance—perhaps you could envision this scene, sort of. If nothing else, the fear of the Lord would be an overwhelming emotion, because there would be so much out of your control, that you can only stand there in utter terror. And yet, as these types of natural phenomena are described in Yitro, Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Ten Words. The final warning regarding the priests kept them from touching the mountain, but there was one exception made for Aaron. So, the scene was set for Israel to receive the Word of the Lord from Mount Sinai.

The Decalogue is Spoken

The Holy One spoke forth the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words, heard by all. These instructions are regarded as perhaps the most important and influential of Divine ordinances, with a resonating effect on all of humankind—most especially those of both Judaism and Christianity:

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 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 20:1-17).

Here, with an entire generation of Israelites to witness and hear, the Lord God proclaimed these Ten Words, which have become foundational building blocks and parameters for living life in a manner that loves Him and neighbor. In the first four commandments, the focus seen is on human relationships with God, and how He wants to be worshipped and followed. The last six commandments deal primarily with human interactions with others, and how God wants us to treat our fellow human beings. Without going into great detail about the specifics of each of these words, when men or women faithfully apply these words to their daily walk with the Lord, they will inevitably be adhering to what Yeshua defined as the greatest commandments in the Torah:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” [Deuteronomy 6:5]. ‘This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 18:5]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:35-40).

A Change of Mind

The Israelites had pledged, rather blindly we may say, to do all that the Lord had spoken—without even knowing what He was going to say (Exodus 19:8). They probably liked the idea of having this awesome God, who had delivered them from the Egyptians through a series of miracles, and helped defeat the dreaded Amalekites, speak to them. He was the God who was going to make them great, after all. But Israel’s initial response, to obey all that the Lord spoke, was perhaps being reevaluated by some, as they heard His commandments reverberating from the mountaintop.

After the Ten Words had been declared, we find a terrified people, who had just witnessed an incredible event as the voice of the Lord literally permeated their beings. Despite complying with the request to maintain a distance from the base of the mountain, the visible, audible, and tangible realities of the Creator God speaking directly to them must have been overwhelming—because they declared that if they heard God speak to them, they would die. We quickly discover that after hearing the Ten Words, the Israelites impulsively requested Moses to maintain his intermediary position, as their point of contact with the Holy One:

“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, 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.’ 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 20:18-26).

Moses listened to the requests of the Israelites, and responded with an explanation for why the Lord had allowed them to hear His audible voice. Apparently, this unique encounter by the Holy One, with His chosen people, was to test them. The Lord wanted the people to fear Him with a reverence that would help them avoid sin, and be genuine in following His instructions. By hearing His commands in this dramatic fashion, the Israelites were so awestruck, that they immediately asked Moses to be their mediator before God.

Without hesitation, Moses approached God in the thick of the cloud, while the Israelites stood at a distance. Some final instructions were given to Moses that deal specifically with avoiding making idols of precious metals and constructing a proper altar with uncut stones for various sacrifices. Moses did not exhibit any of the trepidation of the Lord, because by this point in time Moses had endured so much intimacy with the Lord, that he realized his position as a mediator for the people was secure.

What about the blind faith declarations of the Israelites a few days earlier? Had this close encounter with the Holy One changed their minds, as they had decided it would be better to let an intermediary act as a go-between with the Holy One?

Blind Faith

It is difficult with certainty to determine what made the Ancient Israelites want a mediator, rather than have direct communication from the Almighty. Perhaps it was simply a fear of physical life, because of the dangers posed by wandering too close to the mountain or the difficulty of being in the presence of holiness. On the other hand, is it possible that the pure vocal declaration of the Ten Commandments from the Holy One of Israel, reverberated with such a strong chord in their hearts, that there was literally a physical manifestation experiencing heart palpitations and other threatening actions?

The significance of the giving of the Ten Commandments has allowed me to realize that this formal delivery to Ancient Israel—may just well be a codification of a wide number of instructions that have already been impressed onto the human conscience/mind/heart, as all people are made in God’s image. In his letter to the Romans, Paul mentioned how the nations can do things of God’s Torah, even if they do not formally have God’s Torah:

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 2:14-16).

Every person, in some form or fashion, is going to be held accountable for keeping or violating God’s Law.

When you consider the giving of the Ten Commandments, are you at all complying with them? When you think about breaking an ordinance etched in stone with God’s finger, do you at all think about the scene of fire and smoke in which it was given to Ancient Israel? Even if you do not think about disregarding or disobeying any of Ten Commandments, are you ever caught minimally obeying them?

While you are considering this week’s Torah portion, try placing yourself at the base of Mount Sinai, and imagine the Ten Words of God coming forth from a fire-belching, smoking, and trembling mountain top. Pray through each of the commands, reading them out loud so that you hear them (cf. Romans 10:17), and ascertain just where you presently may be in your heart of hearts when it comes to following them.

Will you discover that there is another god in your life, or that an idol is taking up your time? Will you find that you have been profaning the name of the Lord in some of your thoughts or statements? Could you be approaching the Sabbath in ways that need improvement? Have you ever dishonored your parents or your ancestors? Have you been harboring some thoughts about murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, or coveting something—which needs to be confessed and terminated?

Remember that the Ancient Israelites, who seemingly through a “blind faith,” initially had great intentions to do all that the Holy One spoke. But when the Lord did speak the Ten Commandments, the people rapidly turned to Moses because of their mortal fear, rather than press into the voice of God for their own benefit. Thankfully today, with the benefit of the arrival of Yeshua the Messiah onto the scene of history, all people can know that the penalty for breaking the instructions given to Moses and Ancient Israel has been remitted by His sacrifice! We simply have to acknowledge His sacrifice by faith, and receive permanent atonement and forgiveness for our violation of the Father’s commandments. Additionally, rather than being mortally afraid of the bellowing voice of the Holy One, those who are in Yeshua have the privilege of listening to the quiet still voice of the Spirit, as they seek Him in prayer, supplication, and worship.

I consider it a great blessing to be a part of the redeemed in Messiah, having the opportunity to learn more and more about my Creator and His ways, by studying the Torah. The Holy One still desires a people for His own possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). May we each be found faithful to be a part of this company of Believers! (Click to Source)