Then came Hanukkah;[c] it was winter in Jerusalem. 23 Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!”
25 Yeshua answered them, “I told you, but you don’t believe! The works I do in My Father’s name testify concerning Me. 26 But you don’t believe, because you are not My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life! They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again the Judean leaders picked up stones to stone Him. 32 Yeshua answered them, “I’ve shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone Me?”
33 The Judean leaders answered, “We aren’t stoning you for a good work, but for blasphemy. Though You are a man, You make Yourself God!”
34 Yeshua answered them, “Isn’t it written in your Writings,[d] ‘I have said you are gods’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the Word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, the One the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You speak blasphemy,’ because I said, ‘I am Ben-Elohim’?
37 “If I don’t do the works of My Father, don’t believe Me! 38 But if I do, even if you don’t trust Me, trust the deeds. Then you may come to know and continue to understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.” 39 Therefore they tried to capture Him again, but He escaped from their hand.
40 Again He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first started immersing, and He stayed there. 41 Many people came to Him and were saying, “John performed no sign, but all John said about this man was true.” 42 And many trusted in Him there.
- John 10:22 Lit. Rededication.
- John 10:34 Lit. Law, here applied to the Torah, Prophets, and Writings; quote is from Ps. 82:6.
My family has been involved in the Messianic movement for 22 years, now, since 1995. Like many people within the Messianic movement, I find myself not looking to the month of December with great enthusiasm.
Huge controversies can and do erupt during the month of December, regarding how Messianic people are to approach the Christian holiday of Christmas, on December 25. Many Messianic Jews simply do not see Christmas as something Jewish, they do not see it as something for them, but if Christians observe it, they are not going to oppose them. Many Messianic people, particularly intermarried couples, often keep both Chanukah and Christmas. Many other Messianic people, oppose Christmas, although for different reasons and with different levels of opposition. Some of this may simply come from December 25 not being a specified holiday in the Bible, or established by the Apostles. Others see Christmas on December 25 as a clear result of syncretism practiced by Christians of the Second-Fourth Centuries, where pagan holidays were reinterpreted and “Christianized” with Biblical themes. Many see Christmas on December 25 as outright paganism, Christmas trees directly prohibited in Scripture (i.e., Jeremiah 10:2-5), and most Christians serving the Kingdom of Darkness. And, a few others, noting some early opposition to Christmas by a number of the Protestant Reformers, see Christmas on December 25 as a symbol of corrupt Roman popery. Those who hold to all of these positions, are likely to be found at your local Messianic congregation during the month of December.
When I attended Asbury Theological Seminary (2005-2008) and took Church History I, the subject of Christmas on December 25 did come up in various classes. One of the textbooks we were assigned, had this to say:
“The earliest feast day in connection with the birth of Jesus was January 6, Epiphany, the day of his manifestation. This was originally the celebration of the birth itself. Later, particularly in some areas of the Latin West, December 25 began to take its place. This latter date was actually a pagan festival which, after the time of Constantine, was preempted by the celebration of Christmas”
Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1984), 96.
As you can imagine, some of my fellow students were a bit shocked when they saw–in our assigned textbook, no less–that Christmas on December 25 had some less-than-Biblical origins. I remember once of my professors adding to this that the Christmas tree was adapted from Teutonic and Nordic religion, with obviously no connection to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem–and then only added that Easter eggs likewise had no connection to the resurrection, but instead ancient fertility rites. “So, why do Christians participate in this?”, was the blunt response. The answer was: “The Christian Church has reinterpreted and redeemed these once pagan holidays and festivities.” What this actually was, was a seminary instructor saying that it was acceptable for Believers to practice syncretism, that is, take pagan religious customs, reinvent them, and superimpose Biblical themes onto them. This is precisely what Ancient Israel was told not to do, before entering into the Promised Land:
“When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations” (Deuteronomy 18:9, NJPS).
Yet unlike much of today’s evangelicalism, which will equivocate on the value of Christmas on December 25–a number of prominent comic voices recognize the syncretism in Christmas, and have no problem using it in their various routines!
At the 2002 White House Correspondents Dinner, Drew Carey made note of how Christmas, Easter, and most especially Halloween–were all holidays with origins outside of the Bible:
Last year, the College Humor sketch, “Adam Ruins Everything,” came out with a piece on “The Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas”:
Many of us who once observed Christmas, did not participate in frivolity, drunkenness, and hedonism. Many of us observed Christmas in a pious and holy manner, going to church, focusing on the birth of the Messiah, singing hymns, and fellowshipping with family and close friends. This is actually what makes giving up Christmas difficult for many people in today’s Messianic movement. Their attachment to Christmas, is not so much with the Christmas tree; their attachment to Christmas is with memories of being with those they cared about, some of whom are no longer living.
All of us should be mature enough as adults to recognize that during the month of December, due to all of the nativity scenes and different Christmas carols, that more people are going to be presented with hearing about Jesus and some form of the gospel, than at any other time during the year. In spite of many of the questionable practices and origins surrounding Christmas, God has brought people to Himself during this time of year. Yet Messianic people should also be wise enough to recognize that the Savior declared today during the month of December, is broadly not the Messiah of Israel, who is returning to reign over Planet Earth from Jerusalem—but is instead a universal Christ of tolerance (for human sin). While many sincere Christian people have honored God in ignorance on December 25, Christmas on December 25 is not a God-honoring activity.
I do not encourage any of you to be odious to Christian people during this month, creating unnecessary scenes. Wishing “Happy Holidays” when being told “Merry Christmas,” is entirely legitimate. (Click to Source)
Behold, the lamb of God. The manger in Migdal Eder
Jesus Birth Foretold
The story of Jesus birth was first foretold in Genesis three verse fifteen. God told Adam and Eve that a child would be born. This Child would crush the head of the old Serpent who tempted Eve to sin and resulted in the curse that leads to man’s extinction. Many others would foretell the coming of this Savior of man.
God Chose Jacob
I suppose God could have chosen a million different ways to bring about a remedy to mankind’s disease. But He chose Jacob, a very flawed man and his wildly dysfunctional family to bring forth the antidote. This Christmas story begins with a man, Jacob, and his family spanning 53 generations.
Beyond a brief telling of Jacob’s story, our focus will be on two of his future grandsons David and Jesus. All three men had one thing in common. The importance the little town of Bethlehem played in their life. The reason our Christmas story ends with the birth of Jesus, is because in his blood is the antidote for the curse.
Hundreds of years pass from God’s promise in Genesis, but slowly and painstakingly God, or Yahweh as He is known to the Hebrews, moves mankind closer and closer to a solution to his death problem. Yahweh makes covenants with famous men like Noah and Abraham, edging ever closer, till one day Abraham has a grandson named Jacob. Yahweh changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and transferred to him God’s promise to Abraham that the Messiah, who would save mankind from the curse of death, would come through one of his sons.
Jacob’s journey through life was a painful one and he was not a sinless man. He had many hardships and struggles, most of which he brought on himself by his poor choices. But Yahweh had a plan for Jacob to bring forth the Messiah through his seed.
Jacob Meets Rachel
While Jacob is still a young man, he cheats his brother out of his inheritance, and consequently his brother threatens to kill him. So Jacob finds himself on the run, fleeing the wrath of his brother, away from home for the first time, lonely, broke and in a strange land. He runs to his mother’s relatives in Haran. When he arrives in Haran, he goes to a well where Sheppard’s are waiting to water their flocks, and He asks them if they know his Uncle Laban. They say, “Yes, and there comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
Jacob is so ecstatic to meet his beautiful cousin Rachel, that he sobbed on her between kisses. It was love at first sight for Jacob and for Rachel too.
Jacob marries the beautiful Rachel, who he adored, but he is also tricked into marrying her sister Leah. Though he did not love Leah, Leah gave Jacob six sons. Rachel however, could not conceive, and her ache for a child, throbbed throughout the camp. Jacob then had two sons from the handmaid of Rachel, and two more sons from the handmaid of Leah, but Rachel still could not become pregnant, and her despair was almost unbearable.
Jacob’s Heart Broken in Bethlehem
Finally, with great joy, Rachel becomes pregnant and has a son named Joseph, who will become a famous character in the Bible. After Joseph’s birth, Jacob decides to move his family back to Canaan, the land of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. Along the way, Rachel conceives again, and by the time they get to a little town that becomes known as Bethlehem, Rachel’s birth pains begin, and she delivers her second son Benjamin. The labor was too much for Rachel, and she dies soon after Benjamin is born.
Jacob’s heart is broken. He mourns that he will never again hold her face in his hands, gaze upon her, feel her embrace or inhale her fragrance. He will miss her sweet words and shattered are the dreams of growing old together. His darling has died and the loving mother of his two youngest sons. He ceases his journey there, because his sorrow is too great. The Bible tells this part of the story like this.
And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, Fear not; you shall have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: (Which means son of my sorrow) but his father called him Benjamin. (Which means son of my right hand) And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar on her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
Rachel’s body was laid to rest in Bethlehem. It remains one of the Jews most holy places, and a beautiful shrine to Rachel is there today.
Ephrath means fruitful place, which is an ironic name for a burial-place. However, it was not only the place of Rachel’s departing, as the scripture puts it, but it was also a place of new life, because Benjamin began his life there.
The prophet Micah, who appeared a few generations after King David, spoke for Yahweh, and prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah. Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you, One will go forth for Me, to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
For Jacob though, this was the place of his mourning for beloved Rachel.
We know that Jacob was becoming a wealthy and prosperous man having much livestock. The Bible tells us that when Rachel died he went beyond the tower of Edar and spread his tent. Migdal Edar, as it is known, was only a 1000 paces from Bethlehem, and was a place of elevation, where Shepherd’s would go to watch over their sheep that grazed in the valley’s meadow below. It was a good vantage point, and ideal for watching over the sheep and keeping an eye on what might come down the road from Jerusalem. Several generations later, it became the place where they raised the unblemished and unspotted sheep used for Temple sacrifice.
David is Born in Bethlehem
Eleven generations would come and go till Jacob’s descendant David is born in the little town of Bethlehem. He is quite possibly born near this very spot where Jacob pitched his tent to mourn. One day David would become King of Israel, but as a young man, David was a Priestly Sheppard in the hills and valleys of Bethlehem. It was the sacred duty of a Priestly Shepherd to watch over the sacrificial sheep used in the temple worship.
A priestly Shepherd was not just any Shepherd, but a priest who knew the scriptures, for while David watched the sheep his delight was in the law of the LORD;and in his law he meditated day and night.( Psa. 1:2) Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psa 119:97) Later David references his thoughts of Yahweh while watching the sheep through the night: On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (Psa. 63:6)
The little lambs of God
David must have had a true sense of sacrifice, knowing the fate of the little sheep he came to love and risk his life to protect. The daily Temple sacrifice required two unblemished sheep from Bethlehem. One sacrificed in the morning and one in the evening as a continual sacrifice before the Lord.
The Passover was an annual sacred feast that Yahweh himself instituted for Israel to commemorate their deliverance out of Egypt. During Passover in Israel, the feast required literally thousands of sheep. One lamb needed for each household in all of Israel. During the time of David’s census there were 1,300,000 men beyond age 20. This would suggest a population nearing 5 million. This demand required an estimated 250,000 sheep to accommodate the Passover annually.
Jesus born in Bethlehem
Now let’s fast forward 900 years from the days of David to see what is happening in our little village of Bethlehem. The apostle Luke writes this account.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
The fields around Bethlehem were valuable grazing lands. The Priestly Shepherds were still charged with watching over the Temple flock both day and night. They were vigilant to protect them from their natural enemies, the robber, the wolf, the bear and the lion. Migdal Edar or Tower of the Flock was constructed as a place for watching over the sheep. A room on the ground floor was designated for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. Here they kept a manger ceremonially clean due to the sacred role of these little lambs.
The Shepherd’s find the prophesied Lamb of God
And the Shepherds did find the babe, for they understood what the sign meant. They knew to look for the Messiah in the manger at the watch tower in Bethlehem. The Shepherd’s knew the prophecy of the Prophet Micah, who foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They also knew Micah foretold where to look in Bethlehem. The Messiah King would come to the “the tower of the flock.”
Micah 4:8 “And thou, O tower of the flock the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.”
The Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb of God would be born in the same place all unspotted lambs designated for Temple sacrifice were born.
John the Baptist, grew up knowing the stories and prophecies of his cousin Jesus. I expect they were friends and playmates like most cousins who grow up together. I like what may have been John’s nickname for Jesus for we have recorded in John 1:29 when John saw Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
This Lamb, Jesus, who was once born at Migdal Eder, the tower of the flock, became the sacrificial Lamb of God for Israel. One day He will return to Jacob’s troubled land and miraculously deliver his descendants. Jeremiah called this future time the day of Jacob’s trouble when Jerusalem’s enemies besiege her.
In the nick of time, The Lamb will reveal his true identity and take His rightful place, seated on His throne as the glorious Son of David, the greatest King of Israel. He will tend the sheep of the house of Jacob and all of those from the nations who have come to dwell in that house. Finally, Jacob’s heartache and troubles are comforted. No more tears will flow from Migdal Edar. The lowly Lamb, who became incarnate there, will be Jacob’s Comforter, King, Shepherd and Messiah forever and ever.
And the angel Gabriel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Praise be the name of the LORD. (Click to Source)
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B’resheet (In the beginning)
In the Beginning
Isaiah 42:5-43:10 (A); 42:5-21 (S)
“Torah and Faith”
by Mark Huey
One of the many blessings bestowed upon people, within the Messianic community of faith, is the annual opportunity to return to a study of, and reflection upon, the many profound truths embodied in the weekly Torah readings. It is here within the Chumash or Pentateuch, that Messiah followers can consider the foundation of our faith, as we each seek to be faithful to the God of Creation, pondering His ways and acts for humankind. It is in these first five books of the Holy Writ, that God communicates, without reservation, not only His faithfulness to a chosen people—but most assuredly, the absolute need for His people to faithfully seek Him with all of their hearts and souls (Deuteronomy 4:29).
With a new Torah cycle now upon us, it is my intention to focus the attention of each of us on the critical element of faith (Heb. emunah; Grk. pistis), as first thematically witnessed within the weekly portions—and then obviously present in various important places throughout the remainder of Scripture. According to the author of Hebrews, who in Hebrews ch. 11 focuses on many of the faithful predecessors of our common belief, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This year’s Torah teachings will attempt to help the modern-day, Messianic follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who believes in the Messiah Yeshua and has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to increase his or her “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3) in the Lord in order to please Him. Hopefully, this enhancement in faith will result in promoting a greater usefulness for advancing His Kingdom, so that you will find yourself rewarded by Him via your trust and obedience.
For all people who trust in the God of Israel, the study of His Torah is something foundational to understanding the totality of the Holy Scriptures. Most assuredly, the basis for the remainder of the Scriptures comes from the certainty in the human heart, that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This opening word to the Bible, speaks to not only a certain starting point in past history for the origin of the universe, but the undeniable fact that there is an Omniscient, Omnipotent God, who has made all things according to His intelligent design. Without affirming this conviction, based on faith in the supernatural act of Creation—much of which is beyond human intellect and comprehension—the balance of Holy Scripture would be nothing more than a collection of interesting stories and philosophical speculations, written and compiled from a variety of merely human authors.
Genuine belief in the Creator God and His revealed Word is essential to being a man or woman of faith! Without a steadfast confidence in the God of the Bible, belief in Him, and His plan for each of us and the world at large, is highly unlikely. Possessing faith in the LORD God, and in the Messiah He has sent, is imperative if we want to understand our destiny as human beings.
The Concept of Faith
It is critical for us to take a brief look at the concept of faith, and what it entails for us as the people of God. In order to do this, there might not be a better place in the Bible than the previously referenced Hebrews ch. 11, to see where a succinct definition of faith is articulated:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).
Here, it is stated how “faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see” (Phillips New Testament). Followers of God from antiquity past gained His approval by possessing faith in Him—but such “faith” is not a visible, tangible entity. Faith, rather, is intended to be an intense trust or belief implanted into the heart and mind, rooted within a hope that looks beyond the seen world, directed toward an unseen God who created the world. This is something that goes beyond the natural revelation of God in the Creation (cf. Romans 1:19-20), as it is something that each person is to possess as the trials and tribulations of life force us to mature in our relationship with Him, and in our reckoning of His ways and instruction. Faith in God includes an intrinsic desire to know Him as the loving Creator, who has wondrously fashioned everything that exists. In the view of the Apostle Paul, God has allotted to each of us a measure of faith:
“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
Hopefully, by considering the great examples of faith—or faithlessness—through our course of Torah study this year, God will mercifully increase the measure of faith that each of us has. In so doing, may true seekers of God learn more about Him, and be strengthened in order to more fully walk in His ways! May we also have some answers to the questions we have been asking of our Heavenly Father, in terms of how we are to serve Him and what we are to do, during our time here on Earth.
Adam, Eve, Belief, and the Fall
Without a doubt, it requires a certain amount of faith in God, to believe in the Creation account of Genesis chs. 1-2. God took six distinct periods or yamim, in order to form our universe, including: the cosmos, our solar system, Planet Earth, its vegetation, sea and land creatures, and ultimately humanity. People today, who declare faith in the God of the Bible, give Him absolute credit for bringing into existence all that is seen on this planet, and in what lies beyond—and also what they cannot see in terms of microscopic objects and other dimensions. The pinnacle of God’s Creation is undoubtedly the man and woman (Psalm 8), who were made by God in His image (tzelem) to rule over the Earth:
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’…God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).
One would think that living in the Garden of Eden, where God walked with the first man and woman (Genesis 3:8), and with the creatures and vegetation subject to their dominion—would have been sufficient reason for them to exhibit significant confidence in the goodness and provision of Him as Creator. The instruction given by God, to not eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, seems pretty straightforward and simple enough to follow (cf. Genesis 2:15-25). Yet as is known to each of us, the fact that there was a rule to follow, which forbade its fruit from being eaten, allowed the serpent to enter in and tempt Eve, who had been formed after Adam, and had fewer encounters with God than he did (1 Timothy 2:13). When encountering the serpent, Eve reported how God has forbidden the tree’s fruit from being eaten, but she was taken in by the serpent’s crafty words—not having been informed enough by her husband as to the consequences of what eating the fruit will bring:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”? The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).
When Adam and Eve both ate the forbidden fruit, they did not “drop dead.” Once they knew the intimate presence of God coming to them in the cool of the evening (cf. Genesis 3:8), but after eating the forbidden fruit, they found themselves “naked,” and they knew something had been spiritually altered. It was at this point that the first human couple’s belief, trust, faith, or confidence in God’s order was challenged. With the intimacy of knowing God in an incredibly personal way—what was going to happen now that God has been disobeyed?
As a result of disobedience, Adam and Eve had their eyes opened to the knowledge of good and evil. They were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and by being expelled from Paradise they were going to have to contend with new challenges that were not a part of their previous, privileged time. Curses were issued upon them. There would be pain in childbirth, and a battle of the sexes would erupt with a woman possessing an “urge” (NJPS) for her husband, who would in turn dominate her. There would be difficulty in having to see vegetation grow, as outside of the Garden of Eden would be thorns and thistles. Most importantly, physical death would come, and the body would return to the physical elements from which it was hewn:
“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:16-19).
Rather than experiencing physical death immediately, Adam and Eve were instead expelled from God’s most intimate presence, in which they could receive eternal life and never-ending communion with Him. Cherubim and a flaming sword were stationed outside of the entrance to the Garden of Eden, preventing Adam and Eve from reentering (Genesis 3:21-24).
In reading through Genesis chs. 1-3, and with what happened with Adam and Eve after they both ate the forbidden fruit, one can certainly think that all hope was lost. Did not the first two human beings flagrantly oppose God, by disobeying God’s clear instruction? If people have a free will, could this not be taken as an indication that when God’s instruction is known, people will most always break it (cf. Romans 5:13)? To think that all hope was lost would be a bad conclusion to draw, because as God punished the serpent, there is a promise of a seed (Heb. zera) to come who would crush the serpent’s head:
“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).
Elsewhere in Scripture, we see that this Seed is none other than Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), in whom final redemption is found (cf. Galatians 3:16, 19). In fact, given the likely association of the figure of Eve with the false teaching that plagued many women in First Century Ephesus, is it any wonder why Paul would direct Timothy’s attention, saying how women “shall be saved through the child-bearing” (1 Timothy 2:16, YLT)? When the definite article in dia tēs teknogonias is translated, then a definite reference to the Incarnation of Yeshua—the One who is the Child-Bearing—can be detected, referring back to the Genesis 3:15 promise.
Eventually in future history, the curses brought down upon humanity would be nailed to the cross of Yeshua (cf. Colossians 2:14), and the subsequent guilt of sin would be remitted for those who acknowledge and have faith in Him as Savior. Romans 5:12 still reminds each of us, though, how “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin…in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (TNIV). Those who do not receive Yeshua the Messiah into their lives, placing faith in His atoning action for us, still have to reckon with the problems introduced to humanity by the actions committed by Adam and Eve. For, Adam and Eve quantitatively demonstrated a lack of faith in what the Creator had explicitly told them to not do. Lamentably, for all of us as the subsequent offspring of Adam and Eve—an inclination to not place our faith or trust in what the Lord has told us, has been inherited. All people have sinned in Adam.
Cain, Abel, Disbelief, and Fratricide
While life was certainly more difficult outside the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, they had plenty of time to consider their transgression and how their communion with God was disrupted, but not necessarily destroyed. In reading through the first Torah portion, we find that in spite of the disruption that had been introduced, the Lord continued to commune with them. Adam and Eve had to begin to populate Planet Earth, because even though life would be difficult, God had not rescinded His decree that humanity should subdue the world. So, Adam and Eve went about the tasks before them, and among their children, they had two sons named Cain and Abel:
“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.’ Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Genesis 4:1-2).
As these two sons grew up, Cain became a tiller of the soil, while Abel tended to flocks. Both of these sons presented offerings from their hard work to the Lord. We see that Abel’s offering of the first of his flock was accepted by God, but Cain’s offering was disregarded:
“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 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 fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).
Many Christian readers think that the reason Abel’s offering from the flocks was accepted before the Lord, but Cain’s offering from the fruit of the ground was not accepted, has to do with how a blood sacrifice is necessary to cover sin, and it is obvious that plants cannot do this. Yet as we encounter later in the Torah, various grain and cereal offerings, as well as those of oil and wine, become an important part of the Levitical institution and in the Ancient Israelites demonstrating their thanks to God for His provision. The Lord would not have rejected an offering of plants simply because they were plants.
What might be more notable is how Abel presented “the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4), and Cain only “brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3). This would mean that Abel gave God the finest of his flocks, and Cain may have given God some rather standard or even sub-standard produce. Resultant from the Lord’s rejection of Cain’s offering before Him, Cain got rather angry, and He was warned against the urge of sin that he must see mastered and put down:
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance 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 [teshuqah; urge, NJPS] is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:6-7).
Cain was not able to heed God’s warning to him, and because of this, we see the first recorded murder—a fratricide—in Holy Scripture:
“…And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:7).
While Cain had gone through some of the motions of offering up some of the fruits of his gardening efforts, he had clearly lacked some faith and confidence in the Lord to whom it was offered. On the other hand, when Abel brought a sacrifice from the firstlings of his flock, the Lord looked upon it with favor. Cain’s offering was not the best he could have offered. In the First Century C.E., the author of Hebrews observed how the faith exhibited by Abel to make a sacrifice to God, was considered an act of righteousness—and it was something that had a resonating effect down through the ages:
“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
While there is likely to be discussion and debate over the difference of sacrifice offered by both Cain and Abel, the faithlessness of Cain and the faith of Abel were definitely contrasted in the reaction of Cain in murdering his brother. In a new world where their parents Adam and Eve had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, and where there were many unknowns with this family existing as the only human beings—the reasons of Cain for murdering his brother Abel are difficult to fathom. With relatively few people on the planet, it is hard to imagine a brother killing another brother. But such was the wickedness and lack of faith in the heart of Cain, which he succumbed to, as he let sin take control of his actions. While the judgment issued upon Cain was tough to bear (Genesis 4:8-16), the murderous precedent he set, for people murdering other people, has unfortunately not changed.
For those studying the Torah, reflecting on these two brothers—with one possessing faith in God, and another demonstrating extreme faithlessness—is critical for assessing exactly where our hearts are today, when it comes to us demonstrating our trust in the Almighty. What kind of offerings do we present before Him? When we serve the Lord, do we offer Him our very best, or do we cut corners in some way?
The Creator God is intently observing the hearts of people and their actions, as He may accept one offering but disregard another. In contemplating the reality of God evaluating every human heart, perhaps some introspection should arise within us, as we analyze the motivations behind our own offerings to the Lord and how we serve Him? Do our sacrifices come from the heart, or are they simply a rote expression of various traditions that have been passed down for millennia?
This brings to my mind some thoughts expressed by Yeshua the Messiah, when He was admonishing some scribes, while comparing the offerings of wealthy people to the heartfelt gift of a poor widow:
“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:41-44).
Clearly as this example evidences, the Lord God is most concerned with the heart of those who claim to have faith in Him. He sees through the facades of those like Cain, or various wealthy people, who might be simply following ritualistic practices—be they sacrificial offerings or making a contribution out of their excessive resources. Nevertheless, despite the frailties of the human heart as it struggles with faith in the Creator God, we need to recognize that He forgives those who are deceived by the wiles of the Devil, and who turn to Him in repentance!
Enoch and Faith
Continuing through the Torah portion Bereisheet, there is a curious recognition of a later descendant of Adam and Eve, who apparently exhibited such a great amount of faith, that he was literally taken up (Heb. verb laqach) to God without having to endure physical death. This, of course, is the remarkable testimony of Enoch:
“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-24).
Apparently, God was so blessed with the faith of Enoch, that he did not see death. That Enoch was a man pleasing to God, is affirmed by the author of Hebrews:
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP [Genesis 5:24]; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5).
Can you imagine the amount of faith that Enoch must have had? Here was a descendant of Adam, through the line of Seth (Genesis 5:1-24), who multiple generations later exhibited such a profound faith in the Almighty, that He was simply taken to Heaven. Without speculating too much on what this means or what Enoch did, Enoch is to serve as a great inspiration to those of us who look to the Creator God! For assuredly, if God regarded the faith of Enoch so highly, this being taken up would also occur to various other people in later Biblical history. We see something similar take place, in how the Prophet Elijah was ushered into Heaven via a chariot of fire:
“Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ He said, ‘You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.’ As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (2 Kings 2:8-11).
The Prophet Elijah’s faith was lauded by James the Just, as he said,
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months” (James 5:17; cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46; b.Sanhedrin 113a).
Elijah’s righteous faith was the same faith that all Believers in Yeshua are encouraged to maintain. Recall that along with Moses, Elijah appeared at the scene of the Transfiguration, when Yeshua was manifested to Peter, James, and John in all of His glory (Mark 9:4; Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30).
“Torah and Faith”
What does this overview of faith, from the first Torah portion of Bereisheet, mean for us, as we will be examining the Torah cycle again for another year?
- We must believe in the Word of God, as it has been recorded and preserved down through the ages.
- We must believe that God in His infinite wisdom created the universe, and that all things operate according to His grand design.
- We must believe that God created man and woman in His image, but that people do have a free will to respond in faith toward Him, or to respond without faith toward Him.
- We must believe that through the actions of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the testimony of Enoch—people can choose to either trust in God, or disregard His instruction and endure the consequences.
Thankfully, through the preservation of God’s continuing revelation as witnessed in the balance of the Holy Scriptures, there is confirmation that He has not deviated one iota from His original design for Planet Earth and human civilization. God continues to allow people to be born, with a nature inherited in Adam, permitting each and every one to freely choose whether to walk by faith in Him, or to demonstrate a hollow trust in their own efforts.
The great news for those of us today, who recognize the significance of the redeeming work of Messiah Yeshua—the promised Seed of Adam and Eve destined to bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15)—is that faith in Him and His ultimate sacrifice is sufficient to overcome the curse of the sin nature. Messianic Believers study the Torah, because we know that by better understanding how we will frequently disregard God’s Law, we are all transgressors in need of a Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24). As Paul communicated to the Romans,
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Yeshua the Messiah, abound to the many” (Romans 5:6-15).
Genuine faith in Yeshua’s atoning work restores the intended relationship that the Father desires with each man and woman. Without reservation, let me say that if your faith in the Lord is weak, or if you find yourself relying upon your own good works or mortal abilities to gain favor with God—then you are being deceived by the same crafty serpent that originally deceived Adam and Eve. God requires faith in what He has done via His Son. When we receive the redemption offered in Yeshua, then we can manifest good works as a result of the faith in Him that we possess. As the Apostle Paul communicated to the Believers in Asia Minor,
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Each of us as modern-day Believers in Yeshua must be able to learn from the examples of faith or faithlessness, as we read the Holy Scriptures—beginning with the trials and tribulations of our spiritual forbearers whom we encounter in the Torah. These illustrations have been preserved for us, so that we might incorporate the lessons that they provide us—and we can heed the appropriate warnings where necessary. Paul admonished the Corinthians with the following:
“Now these things happened to them as an example [warning, RSV], and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).
Remember that our Eternal God is always faithful to His people: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). While various temptations of this world might be keeping you away from a fervent desire to increase your measure of faith, recognize that by exercising your free will, you can choose to walk by faith—just as multiple examples of faith-filled saints have done down through the centuries. You do not have to fall prey to the lure of the enemy, and can do the right thing when you are tempted. In so doing, the Father will be greatly pleased!
However, it is always up to each one of us to individually exercise and expand our faith, by conscious study and reflection. Each of us must be reminded how, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah” (Romans 10:17). It is my prayer that by hearing, your faith will be expanded in this next Torah cycle. Through such an expanded faith, may our obedience to God’s Word be manifested—in order to fulfill all of the good works that each of us was created to complete! (Click to Site)
 Heb. b’reisheet bara Elohim et ha’shamayim v’et ha’eretz.
 Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), pp 398-401; Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:399-401.
 Editor’s note: Be aware of how the verb appearing in 1 Timothy 2:13, plassō, can mean “to mould and form by education, training” (H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994], 643), and that various Bibles do properly translate 1 Timothy 2:13 with “formed” (KJV, RSV, NIV, NRSV, ESV, CJB, TLV). If “created” (NASU) were intended in 1 Timothy 2:13, then the verb ktizō could have been used instead.
 Heb. teshuqah; cf. Genesis 4:7.
For a review, consult the article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” by J.K. McKee, under the sub-section “Development and Advances of Gender Relations.”
 Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha, RSV (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp 1441-1442 note for us how,
“This much debated verse has also been translated (1) ‘she will be saved through the birth of the Child’ [referring to Jesus Christ], or (b) ‘she will be brought safely through childbirth.’”
 Cf. Nahum M. Sarna, “Genesis,” in David L. Lieber, ed., Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary(New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2001), 25.
Stories of a Savior
Holiness with human hands
Treasure for the traitor
The Image of the Father
Until heaven came to live with me
A rescue like no other
You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
Yes You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
You died for Your accusers
As Your blood fell to the ground
You redefined my future
The darkness ran for cover
For the King of kings has claimed His throne
Now until forever
You are worthy of Your Name
You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
My ransom, my Savior
My refuge, my hiding place
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name
You are worthy of Your Name
Yes You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
You are worthy of Your Name
Yes You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
You are worthy of Your Name
You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
You are worthy of Your Name
Yes You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
You are worthy of Your Name
Yes You are worthy
You are worthy of Your Name
My Jesus …
A psalm of David, regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.
1 I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
2 I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.
He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
9 Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
12 Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
his ears are open to their cries for help.
16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
he will erase their memory from the earth.
17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;
not one of them is broken!
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him.
No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
He is worthy of His name. There is none like Him. None beside Him.
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.
His name needs no cleansing. No imputed righteousness. No redemption. No justification. No sanctification. No adoption. No separation from sin. No grace. No mercy. No sacrifice. No atonement.
Our Lord Jesus is indeed worthy of His name and at His name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
HOLY HOLY HOLY
He is solid, unmoving, unchanging and a friend to sinners.
Hallelujah!!! (Click to Site)