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

Tazria (She Conceives)

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

“What Did Yeshua Do?”

leperYeshua

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

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

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

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

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

Proper Parental Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeshua’s Torah Obedience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWJD?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shemini (Eighth) – “True Shock and Awe”

“True Shock and Awe”

Leviticus 9:1-11:47
2 Samuel 6:1-7:17 (A); 6:1-19 (S)

Book_of_Leviticus_Chapter_10-3_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

The title of our Torah portion for this week, Shemini or “Eighth,” points one to the chronological context of the “eighth day” that begins this section of Leviticus. A glance at the concluding statements from Tzav last week, notes how the seven days of consecration which God required of Aaron and his sons has just been completed. Aaron and his sons had been very busy anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle, various implements for sacrifice, different accoutrements for the Tent of Meeting, and even themselves:

“At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days and keep the charge of the Lord, so that you will not die, for so I have been commanded. Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the Lord had commanded through Moses” (Leviticus 8:35-36).

Our selection in Shemini begins with, “Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel” (Leviticus 9:1). Now that the seven days of consecration are completed, the glory of God is ready to manifest itself before the Ancient Israelites. The Tabernacle’s system of offerings and sacrifices is ready to begin its designated function:

“Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).

This is a very dramatic and exciting section of Scripture to contemplate and imagine in one’s mind’s eye. Now that the anointing and consecration of the Tabernacle have been completed, and all of the required sacrifices have been offered, the glory of the Lord, kavod-Adonai (hwhy-dAbk), appears.

Aaron first lifts up his hands, and then Moses blesses the people. Then, God’s glory falls upon the Tent of Meeting. In a powerful way, a fire comes down and consumes the burnt offering and portions of fat on the altar. The appearance of the all-consuming fire was so overwhelming that the people shouted for joy that their offerings were acceptable and fell on their faces in awe.

Aaron’s Sons Consumed

Following Leviticus ch. 9, there is a distinct break as the scene of the Tabernacle changes from readers seeing the glory of God manifested—to a very tragic incident involving the deaths of Nadab and Abihu. For some unstated reason in the text, the two eldest sons of Aaron decided to offer up some “strange fire” (Heb. eish zarah, hrz va) that was unauthorized by the Holy One of Israel. They soon discover that unsanctioned activities at this sacred place—based on their own volitional choices—have terminal consequences:

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2).

The death of these two men was a stunning and unexpected tragedy. It was a clear display of God’s apparent displeasure with the actions of Nadab and Abihu. Moments before in the text, a holy fire consumes sacrificial offerings. But then, for offering up “unholy fire” (RSV) or “unauthorized fire” (NIV), the heirs-apparent of Aaron are consumed. As the Hebrew verb akal (lka) describes it, they were “eat[en], devour[ed], consume[d]” (AMG Baker and Carpenter, 49). This is the same verb used previously for the consumption of the offering (Leviticus 9:24). The same God who demonstrated His pleasure with the presentation of offerings before Him in Leviticus 9, is now displeased with the presentation of inappropriate fire before Him in Leviticus 10.

Aaron was in total shock after seeing his two sons die by the force of God. Because of the severity of the Levitical service, Moses communicates these direct commands to Aaron, which he had received from the Lord:

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the Lord spoke, saying, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.”’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent” (Leviticus 10:3).

Certainly, these words from God spoken by Moses, struck a chord with Aaron. Could it have been possible that Aaron thought back to the admonition uttered just before the Decalogue was received at Mount Sinai? Here the instruction was, “Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them” (Exodus 19:22).

At this juncture, Moses was warning not just the Levites, but by extension all of the Ancient Israelites, to not be presumptuous about approaching their Creator. The priests needed to be reminded about the necessity of personal consecration, lest they be punished for presenting something unholy or inappropriate before the Lord.

Leviticus 10:3 is clear how “Aaron remained silent” (NIV) as Moses delivered instruction following the deaths of Nadab and Abihu. Can you imagine what was going through his mind? He was responsible for the golden calf incident in Exodus 32, and yet here he was still standing, in spite of three thousand Israelites slaughtered. For what could seem to be a far lesser offense than committing idolatry against the Holy One, he had to look at the charred remains of his sons. Aaron understood in a very visible way that in order to be in the presence of the Lord, one must be sanctified unto Him.

What can we learn from this today, in the era of New Covenant when Yeshua’s sacrifice has offered permanent forgiveness from sins? The Lord still requires His people to be holy in order for them to access to His presence. He demands that He be glorified and properly honored by His creatures. It is quite possible that Aaron was terrified into thinking that he could be the next victim of the consuming fire of God. While Believers today might have the sacrifice of Yeshua covering their transgressions, even the Apostolic Scriptures admonish us, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

Pleasing the Holy One

There is speculation by the Jewish Rabbis that Nadab and Abihu were perhaps under the influence of alcohol when they made the bad decision to offer up strange fire on the altar (J.H. Hertz, ed., Pentateuch & Haftorahs [London: Soncino Press, 1960], 445). This is a possibility, as they could have been intoxicated so as to not properly follow the procedures that the Lord required of them as consecrated priests. The mention of this prohibition, several verses later in Leviticus 10, is a good textual clue that they could have indeed been drunk:

“Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations—and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them through Moses” (Leviticus 10:9-11).

The problem with alcohol may provide some explanation, but we need not overlook some of the verses which appear between the description of Nadab and Abihu’s death (Leviticus 10:1-3) and then the description of how priests were not to drink while on duty (Leviticus 10:9-11). Some intriguing statements are made in Leviticus 10:6-7, succinctly describing how holy God considers the priestly office to be:

“Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, ‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the Lord has brought about. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the Lord’s anointing oil is upon you.’ So they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:6-7).

Aaron’s other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, will take the place of Nadab and Abihu as priests. They are all instructed not to mourn for the untimely deaths of their brothers. Then they are told to not even leave the Tent of Meeting, because “the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you” (RSV).

The God of Israel was very serious about His chosen priests honoring the office in which they were to serve. In some respects, you can ascertain that from the shock of the consuming deaths of Nadab and Abihu, a genuine awe and reverence of the Lord has settled in the hearts of Aaron and his other sons. Obedience to these directives was adhered to without question. As this section of Leviticus closes, Moses asks Aaron and his sons why they have not followed the instructions to partake of the “holy” offerings that were clear instructions from the Most High:

“‘Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord. Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.’ But Aaron spoke to Moses, ‘Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the Lord?’ When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight” (Leviticus 10:17-20).

Aaron responds to this rebuke with a very heartfelt reply, which indicates that the circumstances of his sons’ deaths, in his mind, prohibited them from eating the sin offering. Having seen his two sons die in a very tragic way, and having heard the admonitions about mourning and leaving the presence of the Lord while under the anointing, Aaron’s heart seems to finally be in the right place.

Even with the potential for immediate Divine retribution, Aaron’s contrite response was, “would the Lord have approved?” (NJPS). Apparently, this was what the Lord was looking for from His high priest and his sons, and Moses was satisfied with the response (Leviticus 10:20). Since Aaron was not consumed for disregarding the requirements for the sin offering, the Lord was pleased with his service as high priest of Israel.

In Shemini, God makes it clear through a very dramatic episode, what He required of the Levitical priesthood. As exemplified in Aaron and his sons, He desires a set-apart people who understand the call upon their lives, and who put His interests as Creator ahead of their own as mortals. Aaron learns from the shocking deaths of Nadab and Abihu that being presumptuous with how someone approaches God can bring significant consequences. Aaron was a changed man. Is it possible that he went through some kind of a mental checklist, asking the question of whether or not God would approve, before every priestly action he took? These initial scenes had to be preparatory for the great responsibility that being the high priest of Israel would entail.

Conforming to His Image

Today, as representatives of the God of Israel in the Earth, we need to approach our service unto Him with the same kind of sobriety that Aaron developed. We need to understand His ways, a very important part of which involves personal Torah study. So much knowledge and understanding about God’s holiness can be imparted to us by a review of the weekly parashah, as we contemplate not only the continuing trajectory of God’s Word, but also His mission and calling for our individual lives.

In Leviticus 11, a part of our Torah portion for this week, we encounter the first major instruction detailing the kosher dietary laws. Many Believers today will casually dismiss these directions given by God, because they think they were only for a previous time or age. But at the same time, several prominent evangelical Christians today—because of the poor health of many in our society—have spoken in favor of the health benefits that are derived from not eating certain meats. Are God’s people to be regulated by Him in simple matters like their diet? Can you learn anything about God’s holiness by what you eat?

As we search our own hearts in these days of “shock and awe” (The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq [2002-2003]), perhaps we should ask the Lord to give us hearts that are reminiscent of Aaron’s heart—hopefully without having to witness the same kind of dramatic encounters that he saw! Learning from Shemini, before we take actions, we should learn to ask the simple question of whether or not God would approve. By training our hearts and minds to such a pattern of behavior, those called into His service can demonstrate how they are being conformed to the image of Yeshua:

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

Let us be reminded that Yeshua only did what the Father instructed Him to do:

“So Yeshua said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me’” (John 8:28).

By His grace, may we also be reminded that we, as obedient servants, should be doing only that which the Lord has instructed us. By being sensitive to His will, not only will He be glorified—but we might find ourselves truly in awe of His work through us. If we choose otherwise, we may be in for an unexpected shock!

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Sh’mini (Eighth) – Thankfully, They Got It Right! – Torah Commentary

Torah Commentary

 unclean

Sh’mini (Eighth)

Leviticus 9:1-11:47

2Samuel 6:1-19

Mark 7:1-23

Acts 5:1-11;10:1-35

 

Thankfully, They Got It Right!

This week brings us to the Torah reading regarding what is clean and what is unclean. It contains possibly the most controversial and hotly contested debate of our day. Let’s approach it with reason and read it for just what it says.

Leviticus 11 is a direct message to the Hebrews about what is food and what is not food. Remember, they have just come out of a pagan land with pagan practices. They have eaten what the Egyptians ate with no knowledge of what was good for the body and what was harmful. The instructions Noah knew seem to have been lost along the way. They just ate anything that tasted good. (Sound familiar?) To this people, HaShem gives basic dietary laws that even medical science of our day agrees with. Doctors and nutritionists of our day will tell you that the animals which scripture states are unclean are not good for our health. Recent reports say that bacon can be altered in such a way that it is now good for your heart, but I wonder how long it will be before we find they were wrong.

Through the years many have tried to make scripture say something it does not say, to validate taste buds. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

When Yeshua or Paul talked about all foods being clean, keep in mind that they were talking about what was considered food in that day. Unclean animals were simply not considered food. To bring this into today’s society, I was just with friends who were speaking of their time in an Eastern country. They spoke of having to watch the menu very closely because it was easy to order dog instead of beef. That really turns my stomach. I mean, I love my dog, but once in a while she really aggravates me. No matter how aggravating she may be though, I have never once thought about putting her on the barbeque grill. I just do not think A-1 could help that go down!

The other example of misinterpretation is Peter’s vision. Go back and read it carefully. Peter was a prejudiced man as we see from some of Paul’s writings. He battled with this prejudice for quite some time. It took something dear to Peter’s heart to get through to him. In this case God used unclean animals. It got Peter’s attention!

Notice in Acts 10:17 Peter was struggling over what the vision was all about when a knock was heard at the door and the vision became clear. The vision had nothing to do with pork chops and shrimp. The vision was about taking the Good News of Yeshua to the Gentiles.

Paul understood this same principle in 1Timothy 4:4. He stated that everything HaShem created is good because it is made holy through the Word of God and prayer. This has been misquoted over the years taking out Word of God and simply quoting it as everything is holy because of prayer. Paul understood that you could pray all day and it would not change the words HaShem had given two thousand years earlier. The word holy simply means something set apart for a purpose. What He has stated is food is holy or set apart in this world for us to receive as nourishment. In that same line of thought, a pig or a lobster is also holy in that it is set apart to be a cleaner of the earth. Your kitchen mop may be holy in that it is set apart for cleaning the floor. I dare say you would never look at it while you are mopping and wonder what that would taste like with mayo and a bit of ketchup.

Peter and Paul got it right on that day. That’s a good thing; otherwise I as a “former gentile” would not be sitting here writing about a Jewish messiah who never once broke the Torah. I might instead be out in the back yard considering what kind of seasoning would make filet of dog taste the best!

Peter got it right and we are now part of His Kingdom. Maybe if we would get it right we would be a bit healthier, in our body and in His Kingdom!

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Torah Commentary – Pesach “Passover” – Now What?

Pesach “Passover”

Exodus 33:12 – 34:26

Ezekiel 36:37 – 37:14
John 19:38-21:25

passover-last supper

Now What?

The night had been filled with emotion as the Hebrews ate of their Passover meal in haste. On the one hand was a sense of excitement about what the coming days would bring as they prepared to make their journey out of Egypt. On the other hand was a sense of despair as the sun rose the next day and they looked toward a country they had once called home, a prosperous land that was now in ruins. The wails of mothers who had lost their firstborn during the night could still be heard as far away as Goshen. The panic of the people of Egypt could be felt in the air. This morning they were being told to turn their backs on the land they had once called home and to pack their new possessions, and do it quickly. The prophesied time of return to their true home was at hand. They were the generation chosen to see the events unfold.

It was all happening too fast though. Many of the people felt that life was out of their control. They wondered if the timing was truly real or if this man Moses was really sent by Elohim. Who did he really think he was anyway? Why him? This is not the way they had all imagined the end of their life in Egypt would be. What about my job? Don’t I need to give a two-week notice or something? How about a forwarding address? These were all questions that went through the minds of the Hebrews as they prepared in haste to leave the place they had once called home. Yes, the sun was rising from a quite sleepless night. But although the sun was especially bright that day there was a darkness of confusion that filled the hearts of many Hebrews. What would this day bring? They were afraid to ask!

Centuries later. Many years had passed since that celebrated day in Egypt. History recorded the events with great detail. The promised redemption had come just like He had said it would. But this morning was different. The confusion of three million Hebrews so long ago could not compare to the confusion of this day. The lives of a handful of men and women He had referred to as His family had taken a turn they had not seen coming. Life seemed to be not only on hold, but had stopped altogether. Confusion, anger, despair and fear were only a few of the emotions that gripped them. Night had come hours early the day before. The sun was now rising over the Mount of Olives, but no outward light could help the darkness they felt on this morning.

The events of Egypt had brought the faithful together so many years earlier. They had provision and they had a leader. But for the disciples, the One whom they had looked to for everything was now gone. He was dead and from their distance and vantage point they stared at a stone, rolled in front of the entrance to a tomb. They stared in wonder. How could they have been so wrong? Why had they not listened to their family members who had told them this new life would never work out? Why had they strayed from the ways of the religious leaders of the day? Why had they not just followed the traditions they had been taught as children? Confusion and despair gripped them all and would only grow worse in the coming days.

But there were words He had spoken to them in the final days rolling around in the back of their minds, just barely out of their grasp. What good would those words do them now though? He is dead. The life, the redemption from the Romans, that seemed so sure just hours before, was now impossible. He is dead! But what are those words they kept trying to bring to the front of their minds?

We usually read the Scripture far too fast, do we not? We forget that verses that are read in moments may have taken days, weeks or even years to live out in reality. The tragedy of missing this concept is that we miss one of the great points of scripture, which is to learn from the example of those who walked before us. With that said, what are we to learn here? Many things of course, but very high on the list is to remember that His plans normally do not come to pass the way that we thought they would. Another one would be that in the end His plan was always better and accomplished a far greater work for our lives than the plan we had dreamed up.

Let us all take some time in this Shabbat, the days between Passover and the end of Unleavened Bread to consider the lives of the people who were leaving Egypt as well as those who lived the long days just after the death of Yeshua. The days prior to His resurrection. Maybe as we consider their uncertainty of the future and the emotions they must have dealt with, it will help us to prepare our own lives for another fulfillment of prophecy, the one that is happening right before our eyes.

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Torah Commentary – Tzav “Command” – A Robe Fit for a King

Tzav “Command”

Leviticus 6:1-8:36

Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23

Mark 12:28-34
Romans 12:1-2

1Coronthians 10:14-23

Yeshua-Atonement-High-Priest

A Robe Fit for a King

It must have been an incredible sight that first day! All of the garments for the priests had been sown to exact details. Each item was laid out in proper order for the priests and for the high priest. Each of them must have looked to the garments they were about to put on with a sense of awe. They were about to take a position they knew they were not worthy of. They were to be the ones who would stand before The Almighty and offer the sacrifices for the people.

I would imagine a strong sense of humility could be felt in the air that day. Aaron especially must have stood with tears in his eyes as the garments were placed upon him. As he looked to the robes, the turban, the ephod and particularly the urim and thummim, he surely felt so unworthy of this great honor. Thoughts of the golden calf flashed through his mind. Thoughts of his own humanity caused him to tremble in fear. He felt so unworthy of this high calling. He felt, well, so human.

It was not until the animal was slain and drops of the animal’s blood were placed on his ear, his thumb and his toe that he began to feel worthy. It was not a worthiness which came from his own self; it was something he could not explain. The blood, there was a warmth to it which was surreal. It was not a warmth he felt so much on the outside, but it seemed to warm from the inside. It seemed the blood applied to his ear, thumb and toe had somehow been applied to his heart, his soul, his being. Aaron somehow understood this blood was not an end in itself, but pointed to something or someone he did not quite understand. He now felt different. The calf, his sin of the past, was now not the focus. In fact, these things seemed to have been washed away as the blood had been applied.

Aaron felt something else as he stood looking down at the robes and the ephod. It seemed that he knew what his shadow would feel like if it could feel. It was like he was not really wearing the garment, he was just holding it up with his body until another who truly was worthy would wear it.

Aaron would place the garment on his body that day, yet he would never be able to completely fulfill the duty of the High Priest. He would only be a fill in until the Worthy One would come. One who would not trust in the blood of a ram to make Him worthy, but would shed His own blood, pure blood, to proclaim He is worthy to hold the position of the true high priest.

Yeshua has today shed His blood. He has taken the position of High Priest, yet to the best of our knowledge has never taken on the garments. He has not been seated in His rightful place in the Holy of Holies. Not yet! Now, please do not misunderstand me; the scripture is clear that He is seated in the heavens, but there is still a place in Jerusalem that He has never been given His rightful position. He died upon an execution stake with the words, “King of the Jews” written on a board above His head, but one day He will return to sit on a throne, to wear His rightful garments and to be The King over all the earth.

I wonder if the garments Aaron wore have been preserved through the ages. I wonder if Aaron and Yeshua wore the same size robe? I wonder, in the Days of Messiah when He rules and reigns from Jerusalem, if He will do so as the rightful owner of robes which were really made for Him, but someone else was allowed to wear for awhile? Aaron wore the robes as a priest, but only as a priest. David would later wear the robes of a king, but only as a king. For a thousand years and into eternity Yeshua will wear one robe, but will fulfill both roles, the role of The Priest and The King.

In the gospels we read how Yeshua walked among men who had a choice whether to submit to His authority or not. From his own countrymen, to the Scribes and Pharisees, He offered them the choice to bow to Him or not. When He returns there will be no choice, for every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that he is King and Priest over all mankind.

Today we still have the choice whether to bow to Him as the God of Mercy or to wait and bow to Him as the God of Judgment. It is a choice that each of us will have to make. Or one we can make now and guarantee our future.

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

Torah Commentary

Bo “Come”

Exodus 10:1-13:16

Jeremiah 46:13-28

John 19:13-37

Acts 13:16-17

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

Words Are Not Enough

jesus-crucifixion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V’eira (I appeared)

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

“Proclaim His Power and Might”

plagues_WEB_0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Torah portion ends with this sad testimony:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V’yechi (He lived)

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

“Vowed to the Land”

ge48-jacob-bl-grsons

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

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

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

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

Return to the Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testimony of Tombs

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

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

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

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

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

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“LIVING TORAH” – Live Where I Tell You

Genesis 25:19-28:9

Malachi 1:1-2:7

Romans 9:6-16

Hebrews 11:20; 12:14-17

 

Live Where I Tell You

 

I said recently that the only thing that has been constant in my life through the past years has been change. However it has not been the kind of change that we were told last year to simply hope for. The change I have seen has been one which I am confident has come from One who states to me that if I follow Him, He will direct my every step along the way. Many of you can relate to these statements as well. Your lives have and in fact continue to be filled with change.

 

In the midst of what can seem on the surface to us turmoil and even confusion regarding these changes, we can all take the words of Genesis 26:2 to heart. The setting for these words is that the world around Isaac was in famine. There was uncertainty of where he would get enough food to feed his family. He began to look to the horizon and to the natural in order to provide for his growing family. Before he began his first step though, he was stopped in his tracks by words which told him to live right where he had been told to live. He was not to look to the horizon for his provision, but rather to look up for his provision. He was being told that if he would look to the Elohim of his father Abraham instead of his own strength, he would never go without. We see in the verses that follow that though he also pulled the same stunt regarding his wife that his father had, he did in fact follow the words spoken to him and was richly blessed because of it.

 

So what is the message to us within these words? Do they mean that we are to stay within the situation both naturally and spiritually that we are in right now? I think not. Look at the words again. They say “Live where I tell you.” The question that we should all be asking Him then is, “Where is He telling us to live?” Of course our minds will immediately think of our natural surroundings first, but this is the wrong place to begin.

 

To answer the question, we should look at the spiritual side first. Where is He asking us to live spiritually? Is it not within the guidelines the Torah gives us? This is a very easy principle to put into practice considering the season we are approaching. It may surprise many of you, but there are those who are reading this commentary today that are still considering what to do for Christmas. They are making plans to live in the practices of this pagan holiday. To those who are doing so, I must ask you the question posed to Isaac, “Where are you told to live?” Have you been told to live in pagan practices or have you been called out to live a life separate and unto Him? Of course, we could spend all day picking on Christmas and make most of us feel really good about ourselves, but what about other areas of life? How are we doing regarding living within the guidelines of Torah which He has told us to live? Are we continually looking to the horizon of man- made solutions to problems and turmoil in life, or are we looking to Torah? Do we have one spiritual eye on Torah, but the other eye on something else, just in case He does not come through in time?

 

In the natural there is so much upheaval in the world around us today. Yah is in the midst of positioning His family, I believe. Many people are being told to uproot everything they have ever known and take a walk of faith similar to that which Isaac’s father Abraham had told him about so many times. When the famine came in the place Isaac was living in, he did just what his father had done during his life. He wanted to move somewhere else. But the message to Isaac was very clear. He was told to not follow the life of another man, but rather to follow the Elohim of that man. He was taught not to duplicate the life of his father, but rather to trust the One who directed that life. He was told to live where He was telling Isaac to live, not to look to where his father had lived.

 

Isaac was on a new walk. It was one that no one had ever walked before. In order for him to live in the provision of Yah, he had to learn to trust in the voice of Yah. He had to learn to not follow the path that looked good or sounded good. He had to learn to walk by faith, not concerned about how it looked.

 

Today, we too are on a walk similar to Isaac. No one has ever done this before. We must each learn to live where He tells us. We must understand however that it is the spiritual living that has to come first. That spiritual life is found within the pages of His voice called Torah. If we will learn this, then where He tells us to live in the natural and how He tells us to get there will be a piece of cake, or maybe we should say a piece of matza.

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