Nostalgia for the Familiar – June 22, 2019

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך | When you set up)
  • Torah: Numbers 8:1-12:15
  • Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 14:14-21

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Summary

The third reading from the book of Numbers and the thirty-sixth reading from the Torah is called Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך), a word that literally means “When you ascend.” It comes from the first verse of the portion, which could literally be translated as “When you ascend the lamps” (Numbers 8:2), a reference to the fact that the priest had to step up to clean and light the lamps of the menorah. This portion is jam-packed, telling the story of the consecration of the Levites, the first Passover in the wilderness, the silver trumpets, the cloud of glory, the departure from Sinai, the grumbling in the wilderness, the first Sanhedrin and the punishment of Miriam.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Numbers 8:1 | The Seven Lamps
    • Numbers 8:5 | Consecration and Service of the Levites
    • Numbers 9:1 | The Passover at Sinai
    • Numbers 9:15 | The Cloud and the Fire
    • Numbers 10:1 | The Silver Trumpets
    • Numbers 10:11 | Departure from Sinai
    • Numbers 11:1 | Complaining in the Desert
    • Numbers 11:16 | The Seventy Elders
    • Numbers 11:31 | The Quails
    • Numbers 12:1 | Aaron and Miriam Jealous of Moses
  • PROPHETS
    • Zec 2:6 Interlude: | An Appeal to the Exiles
    • Zec 3:1 Fourth Vision: | Joshua and Satan
    • Zec 4:1 Fifth Vision: | The Lampstand and Olive Trees

Portion Summary

The third reading from the book of Numbers and the thirty-sixth reading from the Torah is called Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך), a word that literally means “When you ascend.” It comes from the first verse of the portion, which could literally be translated as “When you ascend the lamps” (Numbers 8:2), a reference to the fact that the priest had to step up to clean and light the lamps of the menorah. This portion is jam-packed, telling the story of the consecration of the Levites, the first Passover in the wilderness, the silver trumpets, the cloud of glory, the departure from Sinai, the grumbling in the wilderness, the first Sanhedrin and the punishment of Miriam.


In Numbers 11:4-9, nostalgia for the food of Egypt sweeps over the camp of Israel. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:5-6)

The same often happens to us after we take on a life of discipleship. For a while, it is fresh, new and exciting. It is invigorating, and each day is filled with new discovery. But after a period of time, the novelty wears off. We begin to miss the old vices and entertainments. We begin to feel nostalgic for ways of life that we have turned our backs on. When this happens (and it is normal that it does) we must press on all the harder in pursuit of our righteous Savior. It is normal for the heart to yearn for straying, but it is not normal to stray after the heart. We know better. If we will only press on, we will discover further joys, greater depths and new thrills in the pursuit of God.

Believers who begin to keep the commandments of God come from a variety of denominational and religious backgrounds. Typically, when they do, they commit to a life of Torah which they pursue with a proselyte’s zeal.

Everything changes. Your calendar, your holidays, your day of worship, your friends, your rhythm of life, the places you go, your style of worship, the entertainment you watch—everything is different—even the food you eat. It is normal to, at a certain point, long for some of the old things you have left behind. Believers in the Torah movement often feel bewildered by the strangeness of the new world they have entered. They reflect back on the simpler days when a Sunday morning worship service was nearly the full extent of their expression of faith. They long for the simplicity they once knew. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic…” (Numbers 11:5) But the manna on which we now feed is the one who has descended from heaven. He is the bread of life, and He beckons us to eat of Him alone, and to follow Him alone. This is the way to life. (Click to Source)

Weekly Torah Readings: Vayalekh – One New Man Bible – Sep 14, 2018

Deuteronomy 31:1 – 31:30

Vayelekh

Moses’ Farewell

31.1. And Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 2. And he said to them, “I am a hundred twenty years old this day. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD* has said to me, ‘You will not go over this Jordan.’ 3. The LORD* your God, He is crossing over before you, He will destroy these nations from before you and you will possess them. Joshua is crossing over before you, as the LORD* has said. 4. And the LORD* will do to them as He did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites whom He destroyed, and to their land. 5.And the LORD* will give them up before your face, so you can do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. 6. Be strong! Be of good courage! Do not be in awe! Do not be terrified of them! The LORD* your God, it is He Who is going with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

31:7. And Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong! Be of good courage! For you must go with this people to the land which the LORD* has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you will cause them to inherit it.8. And the LORD*, it is He Who does go before you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not be in awe! Do not be dismayed!”

31:9. And Moses wrote this teaching and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD* and to all the elders of Israel. 10. And Moses commanded them saying, “At the end of seven years, in the appointed time of the year of release, in the Feast of Sukkot 11. when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD* your God in the place which He will choose, you will read this Torah before all Israel in their hearing. 12. Gather the people together; men, women, children, and your stranger that is within your gates, so they can hear and so they will learn and revere the LORD* your God, and observe to do all the words of this teaching, 13. and so their children, who have not known anything, may hear and learn to revere the LORD* your God, as long as you live in the land where you are crossing over the Jordan to possess it.”

31:14. And the LORD* said to Moses, “Behold, your days are approaching when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting, so I can give him a charge.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the Tent of Meeting. 15. And the LORD* appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood over the door of the Tent.

Faithlessness Coming

31:16. And the LORD* said to Moses, “Behold, you will sleep with your fathers, and this people will rise up and go astray after the gods of the strangers of the land, where they are going to be among them and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day and I shall forsake them and I shall hide My face from them, and they will be devoured and many evils and troubles will befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18. And I AM will surely hide My face in that day for all the evils which they will have wrought, in that they have turned to other gods. 19. Now therefore write this song for yourselves and teach it to the children of Israel. Put it in their mouths, so this song will be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. 20. For when I have brought them into the land, which I swore to their fathers, that flows with milk and honey and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then will they turn to other gods and serve them and provoke Me and break My covenant. 21. And it will be, when many evils and troubles befall them, that this song will testify against them as a witness, for it will not be forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants. I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”

Moses Writes the Song of the Lord

31:22. And Moses wrote down this song the same day and taught it to the children of Israel. 23. And he commanded Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong! Be of good courage! For you will bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore to them and the I AM will be with you.”

31:24. And it was when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this Torah in a scroll, until they were finished, 25.that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD* saying, 26. “Take this scroll of the Torah and put it beside the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD* your God, so it will be there as a witness against you. 27. For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. Behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, you have been rebellious against the LORD*, and how much more after my death? 28. Gather to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, so I can speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29. For I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the Way which I have commanded you and evil will befall you in the latter days because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD*, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.”

31:30. And Moses spoke the words of this song in the ears of the whole congregation of Israel, until they were finished. (Click to Source)

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

Devarim

Words

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

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by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torah Commentary – Naso (Take) – He Will Kneel Before – SCRIPTURES FOR Jun 3, 2017

Torah Commentary
Naso (Take)
Numbers 4:21-7:89
Judges 13:2-25
John 7:53-8:11
Acts 21:17-32

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He Will Kneel Before
This Torah portion continues the theme of  “Nasa,” or the lifting up of the head of one who was once in slavery. It further reveals that the lifting up of the head is not only to see a destiny, but to realize that you have a responsibility to help others in reaching theirs. When we are all working within this concept it is called community, or in this case, a nation called Israel.
Located in the center of this Torah portion are the words of what is termed the Aaronic Blessing. The stated purpose in 6:27 of these words is to place His name upon His people. Question before we go on: will He only place His name on those who have lifted their heads, looked to their destiny and begun to walk in community? The answer is one for you to consider.
So what are these words of blessing all about? My personal understanding has grown much over the years. It began with the placing of this blessing within a small booklet of a sample New Moon service. (Working on an update to this soon.) A friend of mine was helping with this booklet and inserted a translation of the Aaronic Blessing by Jeff Benner of  http://ancient-hebrew.org/. Here is the translation:
“He who exists will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection; He who exists will illuminate the wholeness of his being toward you bringing order and he will beautify you; He who exists will lift up his wholeness of being and look upon you and he will set in place all you need to be whole and complete.”  Num 6:24-26
I remember the first time I read this translation. “He who exists will kneel before you.” I had a tough time with those words, until I thought of how I also would give gifts to my then small son. I would kneel to his level. Our Father does the same with us. Ponder that one for a bit.
The words of this blessing went to a new level not too long ago. I was considering the meaning of the word “barak,” which is translated as “bless”. Its literal meaning is to kneel before. As I was pondering this word a picture came to my mind. It is an experience I have told on few occasions, but never written about.
It happened on my first trip to Israel. At the end of the short tour, part of our group went to a Messianic congregation in Jerusalem. In a crazy turn of events for me, I was asked to speak. I looked out at the people and my heart melted. I wanted to do something to show someone my appreciation for my experience in Israel. Father’s timing was about to be played out in a way I could never have orchestrated on my own. I said to the congregation that if I had water I would wash the feet of the leaders. Looking back, it was not about the leaders, but about all I had come in contact with during my tour. I continued speaking about something and then I saw the front door of the building open. There was a lady with a basin of water, soap and a towel. She walked up right in front of me and said, “Were you serious?” What was I to do? One by one that night I “barak,” knelt before the leaders and washed their feet. Words can not express what happened in me that night or what life has been since.
Consider now the words of Gen 12:3, “I will barak, (kneel before) those who barak, (kneel before) you.”  (Click to Article)

 

Naso – Take – “A Prayer of Peace” – 03 June 2017 – 09 Sivan 5777

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by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Naso or “Take,” has a diverse variety of subjects to contemplate. It begins by completing the instructions about the Levites that concluded Bamidbar(Numbers 1:1-4:20).[1] This census has been conducted to number the three Levite clans that were responsible for the Tabernacle and its transportation. The Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Kohathites have each been given specific duties and tasks.[2]Interestingly, unlike some of the other Israelites who were qualified for military service and numbered from twenty years and older, the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty to the age of fifty (Numbers 4:3). Apparently, the rigorous tasks of handling the Tabernacle required considerable strength, which is something that can be realized when one sees how the term rendered as “service,” tzavah, can also mean “army service” (CHALOT).[3] This does not necessarily mean that the Levitical priests would fight in battle, but the degree of dedication and rigor was certainly no different than being a soldier. Jacob Milgrom observes how Levites who were older than fifty did not necessarily “retire,” but instead acted as mentors, while handling some of the liturgical responsibilities of canting and reciting various psalms:

“A Levite male, in the prime of his life, during the years from 30 to 50, would be given responsibility for the arduous tasks of maintaining the tabernacle (and later the Temple). After age 50, his new tasks would require more wisdom and less physical strength: singing the Psalms, opening and closing the gates, and acting as mentor to younger Levites.”[4]

As each of us advances in age, in our service to the Lord, what new opportunities might He open up for us?

Numbers ch. 5 continues our parashah and explains in detail what is commonly referred to as the “law of jealousy.” Here, specific instructions deal with a ritual that is performed in the event a husband is suspicious of his wife’s fidelity. Numbers ch. 6 describes Nazirite vows, with the specific requirements laid forth that are to be performed by the men and women who seek to dedicate themselves to the Lord in this special ritual. At the end of this chapter, what is commonly known as the “Aaronic Benediction” is recorded (Numbers 6:22-27). Finally, Numbers ch. 7 describes what is dedicated to the Lord by each of the different tribes as the Tabernacle is finished and consecrated. A tremendous statement by Moses that indicates how intimately the Lord communicated with him, concludes this parashah:

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

The Power of the Aaronic Benediction

I could spend a great deal of time contemplating the nuances of the Levitical census, the particulars of the “law of jealousy,” a deeper meaning of the Nazirite vow, or even different aspects of the offerings made by the twelve tribes as the Tabernacle is set apart. However, as it so happens, in the past few days a very special event has occurred with my daughter Maggie, which allows me to instead focus on the blessing that Aaron was originally commanded to speak over the people of Ancient Israel.

This past week (2006), in conjunction with our local commemoration of the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot, my fourteen year-old daughter Maggie participated in her bat mitzvah here in Orlando. As a part of her ceremony, she not only delivered a short teaching on the Torah portion, Naso, after reading the first few verses in Hebrew, but she also canted the Aaronic benediction in Hebrew. As you can imagine, this was a very special time for our family.

This event, in many ways, marks a milestone for our family. Maggie will be the first child in her generation to have gone through the formality of becoming a “daughter of the commandments.” For nearly eleven years (since 1995), our family has been faithfully involved in the Messianic movement, as we have grown in our understanding of how the Father truly wants us to conduct our lives. While we have each had baptisms, dedications, and various religious confirmations over the years (which are somewhat close to the tradition of bar/bat mitzvah), this is the first time that someone in our family will have come full circle in our return to the ways of Yeshua and His Jewish Disciples.

Maggie was just three years old when we first began attending a Messianic Jewish congregation. Her testimony, which was a part of her dedication, included her impressions about the very first time she heard a Messianic Jewish rabbi utter the Aaronic blessing over our family in the assembly when she was not even four years old. Over the years, Maggie has become thoroughly “Messianic,” as she now excels in Davidic dance.

Until I read Maggie’s testimony, I never fully realized how she was impacted as a small child by the Aaronic Benediction that was proclaimed over us weekly in our early days in the Messianic community. To me, I am extremely blessed to now know that she was sincerely moved by these proclamations. For her to have this particular Torah portion as her bat mitzvah reading is very special to our family.

In the midst of describing the census of the Levites, the law of jealousy, the Nazirite vows, and the Tabernacle dedication materials offered by the various tribes—there is a pause in the narrative of Naso that inserts this special prayer that was to be uttered by the high priest over Israel. Here is the instruction:

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

Y’varekh’kha ADONAI v’yishmerekha.

Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekha.

Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.

In this prayer to be declared over the Israelites, the priest is directed to bless his listeners with specific words. He is to invoke the blessings of the Lord, by asking the Lord to bless the people and to reveal Himself to them by His peace. No other blessing can be greater, than the one of being blessed by the Heavenly Father. Human beings cannot seek a superior blessing from anything created by our Creator, although they can surely invoke the Creator’s favor upon others.

“The Lord bless you, and keep you”

In the opening verse of the Aaronic Benediction, the priest issues the word, “The LORD bless you and protect you!” (Numbers 6:24, NJPS). What does it fully mean for God to “keep” His people? The Hebrew verb commonly translated “keep” is shamar, which in the Qal stem (simple action, active voice) means “to keep, watch over,” “to take care of, preserve, protect,” and “to keep > to watch, observe” (HALOT).[5] It appears some 479 times in the Tanakh.[6] In many regards, the Aaronic Benediction asks the Holy One of Israel to vigilantly keep His watch over His people. Psalm 121 comes to mind as we recognize that our Heavenly Father never slumbers or sleeps. In this psalm, the Lord is actually identified as our keeper:

“A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel [shomeir Yisrael]will neither slumber or sleep. The LORD is your keeper [ADONAI shom’rekha]; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 121:1-8).

When you think about it, who else would you rather have as your keeper? Our Heavenly Father is an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God who is constantly aware of everything that is happening throughout His universe. To have Him keep His watch over our every thought and deed is a remarkable reality! Asking Him to be vigilant in this regard is specifically designed to bring about His protection at all times.

“The Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you”

The Aaronic Benediction continues, stating, “The LORD deal kindly and graciously with you!” (Numbers 6:25, NJPS). Much more literally, Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha, is translated with “The LORD make His face shine on you” (NASU). The Hebrew word panim, “face,” is used to direct hearers to note the Lord turning Himself, His attention, and His majesty toward His people.

The Holy One is to turn Himself and His attention toward His people, and in so doing, His favor or grace will be evident to those who He looks upon. Nothing can quite compare to the favor of God! In Numbers 6:25, we see the verb chanan used, related to the noun chenor “favor.” These are actually important root words for a variety of common male and female English names found today, such as John, Johanna, Hanna, Ann, Jane, or Nancy—all of which imply “God is gracious.”[7] It should be obvious that seeking the favor of God is a request that is a vital part of Aaronic Benediction.

“The Lord lift up His countenance on you”

While it might be difficult to detect in some English translations of Numbers 6:26, a version like the NIV is actually more true to the source text in rendering the Hebrew panim a second time as “face”: “the LORD turn his face toward you.” Other versions render panim as “countenance” (RSV, NASU, NRSV, ESV), with the NJPS having “favor.” Does this really matter? Is this not just a stylistic issue?

Looking through my English NASU, I found that the first time that panim was rendered as “countenance” came early in the Book of Genesis, where the text described the differences between Abel and Cain. In this passage, you can detect that panim means much more than just a face:

“Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance [panim] fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance [panim] fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:4-7).

Here, we detect that one’s countenance is more like his or her essential being. Obviously, Cain’s innate personhood was being challenged by God. And so, when the Aaronic Benediction is declared and the Lord’s countenance is to be lifted upon His people, this may be interpreted to mean that His essential character be made manifest. Can you imagine what a blessing it is when people not only have the Father’s attentive looks, but most importantly, allow His countenance to then be reflected in their actions? I cannot perceive of a greater blessing than when the Aaronic Benediction actually results in people exhibiting the very character of the Most High!

“And give you peace”

Finally, as a result of these awesome blessings, the Aaronic Benediction concludes with the word: “and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). The peace of God, of course, is a complete understanding that He is in control of what is transpiring at all times. Shalom is intended to be a sense of total harmony and calmness, in spite of dire circumstances. It is a condition that is impossible to understand apart from the inspiration of trust in Him. Shalom is intended to not just be an absence of war or conflict among people, but a condition of complete balance and tranquility between God, man, and nature.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul was at a loss for words on how to describe the peace of God:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:4-7).

This peace of God is exactly what the Aaronic Benediction declares upon Ancient Israel in our Torah portion. This is a knowing that God is in charge, despite our human inabilities to understand what He is necessarily doing in the circumstances of life. Paul reminded his Philippian friends of how Messiah followers are to be anxious for nothing, but rather plead with the Lord through their prayers and supplication.

Acquiring the Peace of the Lord

For those of you who are in need of a good model for prayer, perhaps memorizing the Aaronic Benediction for times of need might be a good beginning. Don’t leave the Aaronic Benediction to the close of your Shabbat service on Saturday morning! Claim what the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6:22-27 declares forth for yourself. Take great comfort and encouragement from realizing how the Holy Spirit is to fill us up and empower us, interceding for us before the Throne of God:

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

This week, as we consider the Aaronic Benediction, we can first be thankful that we have this wonderful prayer to contemplate and recite—as we cry out to the Lord for His blessings. Additionally, as Believers in the redeeming work of the Messiah Yeshua, we should be able to invoke this meaningful prayer for ourselves, as well as others, as we serve the Lord. Above all, we should always remember that more is to come as we await the return of the Messiah to Planet Earth, and the eventual establishment of His reign of total peace and shalom. What kind of service of worship must we offer to Him in the meantime (cf. Romans 12:1), to hasten the Lord’s coming?

NOTES

[1] Numbers 4:1-3, 34-49.

[2] Numbers 4:1-49; Kohathites: 4:2-20; Gershonites: 4:21-28; Merarites: 4:29-33.

[3] CHALOT, 302.

[4] Jacob Milgrom, “Numbers,” in Etz Hayim, 783.

[5] HALOT, 2:1582-1583.

[6] This figure was determined using a root search of the Hebrew Tanakh (WTT) in BibleWorks 7.0.

[7] Cf. Edwin Yamauchi, “chanan,” in TWOT, 1:302-303.

(Click to Article)

Torah Commentary -Tol’dot (History) Stopped Up Wells -Day 1, Month 9, 5775; 1 December 2016

Jesus scriptures temple2

Torah Commentary
Genesis 25:19-28:9
Malachi 1:1-2:7
Romans 9:6-16
Hebrews 11:20; 12:14-17
Tol’dot (History)

Stopped Up Wells

The life of the now to be patriarchs are so rich in meaning. In their lives is the wisdom of the Creator. In the accounts recorded for us is His wisdom being passed on from generation to generation. In later Torah portions He will give us specific instructions in life, but they are proceeded by these wonderful stories which are designed to allow our minds to wander back and imagine what life was like for them. None of these men and women ever had a thought that as they were living, Yah was allowing their lives to be a book others would be able to learn from. That statement should make us stop and ponder about our own lives today, but that is a different subject.

In the midst of the Book of Genesis, we see played out before us the message of two seeds prophesied of just before Adam and Eve were banished from The Garden. The battle is not just about seed, but about position, a position of authority within a chosen family. It is about a position referred to as the Malki-Tzedek Priesthood. Simply put, it is the position of king and priest within a family which was to go to the first born. In the cases we read of, this position does not end up with the first born because the first born does not follow in the responsibilities of the correct seed, and the battle for the position turns into a war. We will see in the lives of the tribes that the position of king and priest will be divided within the family, but the battle will not end. In fact it continues to this day. In the person of Yeshua, the positions of king and priest come back together as one, but the battle continues as hasatan continues to try and thwart that authority.  Not too smart on his part, but that too is a different subject. (Click to Article)

Naso (Take) – “Blessings and Shalom”

Naso (Take)

Numbers 4:21-7:89
Judges 13:2-25

“Blessings and Shalom”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of the Name

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


Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha.

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

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

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Torah Commentary – B’har (On Mount Sinai) – The Heart of the Matter – Joined To HaShem

Torah Commentary

B’har (On Mount Sinai)

Leviticus 25:1-26:2; 26:3-27:34

Jeremiah 32:6-27;16:19-17:14

2Corinthians 7-13

The Heart of the Matter

mtsinai

For our culture, many of the instructions of Leviticus seem quite foreign to us.  There is even a debate whether most of these scriptures pertain only to the time in which we have entered The Land.  Buying and selling of crops, allowing the land to rest on the seventh year and redeeming our poor relative from slavery, you have to admit are just not things most of us spend many waking moments on today.  When it comes to food storage most are trying to figure out how to store a few months and have never thought about the three years to take us through the Jubilee.  Once again, we can get lost in the relevance of these verses for our day and read them far too fast.  To do so may cause us to miss the whole point of the verses.

Again, Torah is about relationships.  The mysteries and wonders of Torah are awesome, but if we miss the theme of relationship, we miss the whole point of the matter.  Torah is teaching us through practical day-to-day life instructions how to love our Creator and how to treat one another.  This principle is brought out again in Leviticus 25:14-17.  Here scripture speaks of selling property to a neighbor with the idea of how many years are left until the Jubilee and the return of said property.  On the surface we do not see the point of the instruction, because in our society when we sell an item to someone, we do not expect him or her to bring it back in seven years.  What is sold is sold.  So what can we learn in this instruction?  The point is in verse 17, which tells us not to take advantage of one another in our transactions.

Let’s put some flesh on this one.  Back in the days when I sold real estate, I hated to sell property to or for friends.  Most times it turned out to be a disaster.  I found that no matter how hard I tried, the “friend” was much harder to work with than a stranger off the street.  They usually wanted special favors and in the end just could not believe why I did not turn my entire commission over to them and call the transaction a favor based on friendship.  This was taking advantage of a friendship, which is what Leviticus is warning us against.

These verses should cause us to consider a thought for a moment.  Just how much do we do in life that has someone else’s interest at heart?  How many of our daily actions and decisions are based solely on what is in it for me and me only?  How much time do we take to consider how our actions are affecting those around us in a positive or negative manner?

The second part of this verse may cause us to change our present way of thinking from “Only me” to “Oh me.”  It tells us that the reason we are not to take advantage of one another is because of our fear of Elohim.  Some may ask how this has a bearing on the issue at hand.  Consider this scenario for a moment.  There is a fear of Elohim that has been glossed over by modern day easy grace teachings which say that all is forgiven and you really need never think about your actions in this life.  Such teaching surmises that you will one day come before your Messiah, simply point to the cross you wore around your neck, and all of life will be glossed over, erased and forgotten about.  This teaching does not take into account that though our sins are forgiven in Messiah, what we do upon this earth with that grace will one day be judged by fire.  We will stand before our Creator and give an account for the life that we have led.  We will give an account for the way in which we followed His commands and we will give an account for the way we treated each other.  The standard in that day will be words like we read this week.  We will stand and give an account of how we took advantage of each other or receive rewards based upon how we put others first in life.  This should produce a bit of reverent fear regarding the way in which we live our daily lives.

Once again, Leviticus teaches us not to dwell on what we do not understand, but rather to look to the heart of the matter and focus on what we know we should be doing!

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

Acharei Mot (After the death)

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

“Blood Life”

yeshuahighpriest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”

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

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

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

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

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

“‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the Lord who does this” (cf. Acts 15:16-18).

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

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

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

“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:19-21).

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

1.  Abstinence from pollutions of idols

2.  Abstinence from fornication

3.  Abstinence from things strangled

4.  Abstinence from blood

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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